Indonesia: Government to curb excessive use of plastic

Hans Nicholas Jong The Jakarta Post 3 Nov 16;

Indonesians’ love of plastic has propelled the country to become the world’s second-biggest contributor to plastic waste in the ocean, choking the seas with soda bottles and plastic bags and wrecking aquatic ecosystems.

According to a 2015 study published in the journal Science, Indonesia produced 3.2 million tons of plastic waste in 2010, with around 1.29 million tons of that ending up in the ocean, second only to China with its 8.8 million tons of waste.

As plastic waste keeps piling up, creating vortices where humanity’s trash bobs atop the water for kilometers on end, the government is trying to come up with a nationwide action plan.

In the first stage of the plan, the government, assisted by the World Bank and Denmark, is conducting a study in 15 urban centers to identify the core of the problem as well as where waste comes from.

Preliminary findings of the study, which commenced in June this year and is expected to run until December, suggested that the main issue was a spillover of land waste, with an estimated 80 percent of marine plastic coming from land-based sources.

“We want to know if it’s true that we are number two [globally in polluting the ocean with plastic]. In order to know that, we have to know how much of our plastic waste is leaked into rivers, because rivers in Jakarta and Surabaya are already clean,” said Arief Havas Oegroseno, an assistant with the office of the Coordinating Maritime Affairs Minister, on the sideline of the Indonesia Marine Plastic Debris Summit.

He said spillovers could occur at garbage collection sites, landfills or bays. “After that, we will identify the solutions as well as the costs,” said Arif. “If the leakages occur in landfills and rivers, why don’t we build waste-based power plants in the estuaries of rivers?”

The study results will feed into the national action plan to be presented at the World Ocean Summit in Bali in February 2017.

The study also suggested that some of Indonesia’s ocean plastic waste came from other countries.

According to the study, two in five plastic bottles found on a small island north of Banten, West Java, were from overseas. The overseas trash was suspected to have come from Singapore and South Asia, while the rest was from Kalimantan and Central Java.

“It means that 20 percent of our ocean plastic waste might be from other countries because Indonesia is at the crossroads of the global ocean conveyor belt,” Arif said.

The global ocean conveyor belt is a constantly moving system of deep-ocean circulation driven by temperature and salinity, moving from the Pacific Ocean to north Papua, down to Aru Islands, entering Bali, exiting southern Java, moving down to southern Africa, up to the Atlantic Ocean, and finally going back to the Pacific Ocean.

“This current transport islands of waste. In the Pacific, there are 100,000 tons of waste islands, while in the Indian Ocean, the number is three times that. How do we catch the garbage? If we try to stop the leakage nationally, but our neighboring countries do not do the same, then how?” Arif said.

While other countries may contribute to Indonesia’s marine plastic waste problem, Indonesia could also be adding to other countries’ trash.

“So there’s a chance that we might contribute [our plastic waste] to other countries,” the Environment and Forestry Ministry’s ocean and coastal pollution management director, Heru Waluyo, told The Jakarta Post.

He said some countries had complained to Indonesia about the issue.

“Australia, for instance, found indications that some of its plastic waste came from Indonesia because the wrappers were in Indonesian,” Heru said.

Before the government comes up with its plan, Heru urged the public to change its behavior, starting with reducing the use of plastic bags, which make up a large portion of marine plastic waste.

“As long as we don’t change our behavior, the problems will remain,” he said. “We haven’t been able to change our culture. If we go to Singapore, we automatically change because there is law enforcement.”

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