Indonesia: Retailers to crack down on plastic bags

Hans Nicholas Jong, The Jakarta Post 5 Feb 16;

Customers will have to pay for plastic bags when they shop at shopping malls, department stores, supermarkets and other retail outlets throughout 23 of the country’s major cities starting Feb. 21.

In an effort to reduce plastic waste, Indonesian Retailers Association (Aprindo) chairman Roy Mandey said on Thursday that all modern retailers in 23 of the country’s major cities were ready to implement the policy set by the Environment and Forestry Ministry last year.

“All retailers in these cities have been targeted to implement the education program. We will start doing this to show that the retail industry have made a commitment to support the government’s program,” he told The Jakarta Post on Thursday.

The 23 major cities are Ambon, Balikpapan, Banda Aceh, Bandung, Banjarmasin, Bekasi, Bogor, Denpasar, Depok, Jakarta, Jayapura, Kendari, Makassar, Medan, Palembang, Papua, Pekanbaru, Semarang, Solo, Surabaya, Tangerang, South Tangerang and Yogyakarta.

The association chose Feb. 21 as the date to kick off the campaign so as to coincide with National Waste Awareness Day.

The ministry’s director general for dangerous toxic material and waste management, Tuti Hendrawati Mintarsih, said that the government has yet to confirm the price to be charged to customers for plastic shopping bags.

The ministry has proposed a charge of Rp 500 per plastic bag and suggested that customers could get Rp 200 back if they return the plastic bags to the retailers.

But Tuti said that, through local ordinances, regional governments would have the final say on how much shoppers will be charged.

She expected that the price will vary between regions and are likely to be between Rp 500 and Rp 5,000.

“So [the prices] will be flexible, depending on the agreement between regions and retailers themselves,” Tuti said.

Aprindo, meanwhile, has proposed a Rp 200 charge for each plastic bag.

“Under the assumption that such a price will be affordable to the public,” Roy said. “But we’re just hoping for the best decision. We will leave it to the regional governments [to decide]”.

The ministry considers Rp 200 to be too low and is thus unlikely to deter people from using plastic bags.

“This is still a trial period, from February to June, so Aprindo should have nothing to worry about,” she said.

Banda Aceh Mayor Illiza Sa’aduddin Djamal said on Thursday that his administration would likely apply a reasonable price.

“It could be around Rp 500 [I suppose], based on what the ministry ask,” she said.

Banjarmasin Mayor H. Muhidin said that his administration was currently in talks with local retailers and the city’s environment agency, adding that the city was ready to implement the policy by Feb. 21.

Indonesia is following in the footsteps of others in the region by implementing a curb on the use of plastic bags.

Last year, Hong Kong started charging people 50 cents per plastic bag, a move that resulted in a 73 percent decrease in plastic bag consumption.

Data from the ministry shows that people consume up to 9.8 billion plastic bags every year in Indonesia, with 95 percent of the bags made with plastics that take considerable time to break down naturally.

Plastic shopping bags are so resilient, pervasive and toxic that we have arrived at a tipping point, the entire ecosystem is off balance, with tens of thousands of turtles, whales, other marine creatures and sea birds dying each year after having ingested plastic material.

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