People, Circular Economy, Peace & Partnership

Global call for data innovations to stop ocean plastics flow in South and Southeast Asia

The Incubation Network | Dec 11, 2019


Missing data on ocean plastic flows

Each year, about 8 million tons of plastic waste enters our oceans, equivalent to five full trash bags along every inch of coastline worldwide. An estimated 60% of ocean plastics is a result of mismanaged waste from just five Asian nations. For this reason, many leaders recognize that optimizing land-based plastic waste management across this region is an impactful first step to ending the crisis. However, as the layers are peeled back, an important ingredient is missing: data.

Data in plastic waste management across South and Southeast Asia is missing, inconsistent, or unreliable because the sector’s value chains are complex systems that are fragmented and reliant on the informal economy. This results in limited visibility and transparency in the sector as well as an inability to effectively track, monitor, forecast, or optimize material flows and reduce ocean leakage. Technologies, models and data science being applied in other complex systems can be adopted into plastic waste management and revolutionize waste and recycling markets across the region.

Susan Ruffo, Executive Director of The Circulate Initiative explains “We are at an exciting time where there is a global consensus that improved plastic waste management and recycling in Asia is key to turning off the tap of ocean plastic. However, while communities of policy-makers, investors, multinational corporations and innovative entrepreneurs are lining up to take action, the lack of reliable data on plastic waste management across South and Southeast Asia continues to be a major roadblock for transformative solutions to the plastics crisis. We are excited to kick-off the work of The Incubation Network with this program to address this timely and urgent issue.”


A global innovation challenge to source for solutions to missing data

 The inaugural Plastics Data Challenge is a global innovation challenge that will source, support, and scale innovative technologies, methodologies and working prototypes that leverage data to understand and address the leakage of plastic waste into the environment. Through this challenge, The Incubation Network and its partner, Global Initiatives, aim to discover solutions to the lack of data across Asia’s plastics value chains and enhance the market for plastic waste and recycling innovations with a focus on South and Southeast Asia.

 The challenge invites institutions, startups, entrepreneurs, companies, and data scientists from around the globe to develop advanced data solutions to be applied across plastic waste management and recycling value chains in South and Southeast Asia. Ideas and prototypes can be submitted on the Plastics Data Challenge website from 19 December 2019 onwards. 

 The Plastics Data Challenge will select a cohort of up to 10 semi-finalists who are invited to participate in a one-week summit in Singapore followed by a virtual pilot-readiness program. After which, up to 3 finalists will be selected and awarded a mix of cash prizes and pro bono services, in addition, to support from the Incubation Network to design and implement a pilot of their innovation in a community within the region.


Data for a circular economy

The Plastics Data Challenge was recently unveiled at the Responsible Business Forum in Singapore. Themed Circularity 2030, the Forum saw global experts convene to discuss and identify innovations and solutions towards creating a circular economy. Throughout the two-day Forum, there was widespread agreement amongst experts and industry leaders that the missing link in circularity is often data.

“[A] challenge facing the circular economy … is the lack of data and standards on certain parameters. Lack of data has made it difficult for financiers to understand and assess the opportunities. In the absence of information. The default is to assume that risks are too high,” said Katherine Garrett-Cox, Chief Executive Officer of Gulf International Bank (UK). 

Simon Baldwin, Director of SecondMuse Singapore adds, “Through our portfolio of innovation programs across the last decade, SecondMuse has witnessed first-hand how sectors from agriculture, energy and insurance to public health and even human trafficking are leveraging data technologies to develop models that help manage complex systems and drive transformational change. The Plastics Data Challenge will explore how such technologies, models and methodologies being applied in other complex systems can similarly be adopted into plastic waste management systems to reduce plastic pollution. This challenge is more than a competition, it is a chance to revolutionize waste and recycling markets across the region!”


The challenge is now calling for submission of ideas and prototypes with cash prizes of up to USD $10,000 for winning entries. 


 About The Incubation Network: The Incubation Network powered by The Circulate Initiative and SecondMuseis building a thriving circular economy by developing, promoting and incubating innovative technologies, business models and entrepreneurs that prevent ocean plastic pollution in South and Southeast Asia. The initiative will create a connected network of innovators, investors, civil society organisations, and government leaders across South and Southeast Asia. Collectively, they will design and deliver programs that drive investment, innovation, and partnerships for inclusive and gender-responsive waste management and circular economy solutions. For more information, visit:


For media inquiries, please contact Jocelyn Matyas (SecondMuse) at

 For most updated information on the Plastics Data Challenge, please visit


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