Indonesia: Paying for Plastic Bags Not Good Enough in Balikpapan

B1.COM Jakarta Globe 15 Sep 16;

Jakarta. Balikpapan's environmental agency in East Kalimantan said the "pay for plastic bag" policy initiated by the local government has failed to reduce the amount of plastic waste in the area.

"Plastic waste still makes up close to six percent of total waste per day, though not all of them are plastic shopping bags," agency chief Suryanto said on Wednesday (14/09).

According to the agency, the residents of Balikpapan produce up to 600 tons of waste per day, of which 36 tons are plastic waste.

The high proportion of plastic waste is attributed to the puny charge for a plastic bag at many shops — not nearly expensive enough to force people to get used to bringing their own shopping bags.

Suryanto said stores in Balikpapan generally charge Rp 200 (less than a cent) per plastic bag, including supermarkets, with only a few charging more, up to Rp 1,500 per bag.

"According to the Mayor’s instruction, stores should charge at least Rp 1,500 per plastic bag," Suryanto said.

Suryanto said the Balikpapan municipal government is still waiting for the central government to decide whether or not the pay-for-plastic-bag policy will continue. Currently, the policy is not being evaluated at the central level.

"The central government has promised to issue a regulation on the pay-for-plastic-bag policy by the end of the year — we'll wait for that," he said.

According to Suryanto himself, the government should continue with the policy to reduce the alarming amount of plastic waste produced all across the country.

"We have to raise awareness about reducing plastic waste. Use reusable shopping bags instead, you can buy them everywhere now," Suryanto said.