Indonesia: Residents ready for plastic bag charge

Corry Elyda and Agnes Anya, The Jakarta Post 19 Feb 16;

Unlike many city administrations that have announced their resistance, communities and private entities have shown enthusiasm for a program obliging modern retailers to charge customers for plastic bags starting Sunday.

Tiza Mafira, the director of the Diet Kantong Plastik (DKP) movement that initiated the program, said in a press conference on Wednesday that 80 percent of respondents in a survey conducted by the DKP said they supported the program.

Tiza said the survey showed that 80 percent of respondents were ready to bring their own bags when shopping. “According to the survey, the ideal price of plastic bags is between Rp 500 [4 US cents] and Rp 2,000. However, it may vary in accordance with how much each city is willing to pay,” she said, adding that the respondents also hoped that the money raised would be used for corporate social responsibility (CSR) schemes.

The Environment and Forestry Ministry’s decision to issue a circular stating that retailers should start charging for plastic bags was inspired by petitions both online and offline, which attracted 70,000 signatures.

As many as 23 major cities were scheduled to implement the circular from Feb. 21, coinciding with National Waste Awareness Day. However, claiming that they were unprepared, many local administrations backed off. Only nine have maintained their willingness to continue with the plan and only one city, Bandung, has prepared to release a regulation to support the program.

Agus Supriyanto, retailer education department head at the ministry’s Waste Management Directorate, said the ministry would trial the program for three months from Feb. 21 to June 21 to see whether it would successfully decrease the use of plastic bags.

“In June, we will evaluate the program before deciding to issue a ministry regulation to reduce the use of plastic bags,” he said.

A survey carried out from Feb. 5 to 14 showed that 94 percent of 10,044 respondents were willing to pay for plastic bags and 92 percent did not mind bringing their own bags.

Meanwhile, some retailers have also announced their support for the program. Convenience-store chain Circle K corporate legal manager Aryanto, who also attended the press conference, said the company, which had 500 stores across the country, would participate in the program. “However, we will charge Rp 200 for plastic bags, in accordance with the recommendation of Aprindo,” he said, referring to the Indonesian Retailers Association.

Aryanto said he hoped that the central government and city administration would make a clear regulation because they could not force customers to pay for plastic bags without a regulation. DKP estimates that more than 9 billion plastic bags are used by retailer consumers each year in Indonesia.

The policy also received support from religious institutions, such as the Jakarta Catholic Diocese. The diocese’s Episcopal vicar for categorical communities, Andang Listya Binawan SJ, said that the church authorities praised the plastic bag tax as it was likely to reduce the use of plastic, which was polluting the Earth.

The diocese has been urging its congregation to control the use of plastics and styrofoam since 2013 in a bid to reduce plastic bag waste.

It is campaigning for the move again in the current pre-Easter period, in which its congregation is being urged to not only abstain from eating meat, but also using plastic bags and styrofoam, for 40 days.

“With the move, we would like to invite Catholics to grow their faith by taking care of our home; the environment — which has been supporting our lives,” said vicar Andang.

With the move, the diocese also asks authorities in Catholic churches in Greater Jakarta to not consume water packaged in plastic cups or bottles during meetings.

Monica Anggraini, a church member, has welcomed the program and has been encouraging her community members to bring their own tumblers to meetings.

“Sometimes, they forget to bring tumblers to the meetings. So I provide reusable cups,” she said.

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