plastics in Southeast Asia

#MyFellowshipExperience: What I learned from managing a media research project on plastics in Southeast Asia

When Climate Tracker asked me if I could lead this project that aims to look into media coverage of plastics in Southeast Asia before and during pandemic, I didn’t hesitate to say yes. As a former Climate Tracker research fellow — I was the Philippine researcher for a 2020 project in partnership with the Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung that looked into media coverage of a post-COVID recovery — I wanted to help other researchers get up to speed and produce a report we could all be proud of. Those were, at least, the objectives I set out to achieve. 

As anyone who’s been part of any Climate Tracker research project knows, however, you learn a lot more than what you think you will during your time with Climate Tracker. Over the past three months, I was tasked with training researchers, setting deadlines, giving feedback, updating my Climate Tracker colleagues on the progress of the project, conducting my own research, interviewing journalists for my own report on the Philippines, editing the report, overseeing the copy-editing and layout process, coordinating with our project partner Break Free from Plastic, organizing podcast and webinar sessions, and preparing an outreach strategy — in other words, the full range of project management. There was a lot on my plate, but I was lucky to have worked with a team that was equally committed to producing work that — as I hoped when I took on this role — we would all be proud of for its ability to inform a broader audience about the media coverage of an important issue. 

Read more: The Plastic Pandemic in Southeast Asia [report]

For instance, thanks to our collective research, I learned that, in Southeast Asia, there’s been very little effort to explicitly link the plastics problem with climate change in media coverage — this, despite the fact that plastics are made from chemicals sourced from fossil fuels. Across all the countries we studied — the report includes findings from Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam, and the Philippines — there’s also a tendency to highlight individual responsibility and overlook corporations’ culpability in perpetuating plastic pollution through their roles as plastic producers. These are just some of the findings that we think newsrooms and nonprofits alike can draw from to more effectively convey this little-understood issue to the public. 

Want to learn more about media coverage of plastics in Southeast Asia? Check out our full report and tune into our podcast ⬇️⬇️.This was made possible due to our partnership with Break Free from Plastic.