Indonesia’s latest weapon to cut plastic bag use: devout Muslims

Moses Ompusunggu The Jakarta Post 6 Jun 18;

Indonesia, one of the planet’s major plastic polluters, is now banking on one of its biggest resources to entice people to take a plastic bag diet: Muslim clerics.

On Tuesday, the government declared a cooperation with clerics from the country’s largest Muslim groups, Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) and Muhammadiyah, to change consumer behavior pertaining to the use of plastic shopping bags.

In the partnership, NU and Muhammadiyah now have a mission to promote the use of reusable bags to cut plastic bag use in Indonesia.

“NU and Muhammadiyah have a large number of followers. The most forceful way is for their clerics to tell the masses in a simple way to change their mind sets,” Rosa Vivien Ratnawati, the Environment and Forestry Ministry’s director general for waste management, told reporters on Tuesday.

Indonesia is desperately trying to end the dependency of its people on plastic shopping bags, having pledged to reduce its waste volume to 30 percent by 2025.

The use of plastic bags in Indonesia has increased over the past 10 years to approximately 9.8 billion plastic bags per year---95 percent of which end up unprocessed, according to the Environment and Forestry Ministry.

NU and Muhammadiyah said in a joint statement that they were committed to “carrying out a plastic bag use reduction movement, which is part of an Islamic culture, by implementing it in numerous activities from childhood to adult level.”

The two organizations, which boast more than 100 million followers combined, said they would also conduct a “reusable bag movement” that would be introduced gradually within their organizations and at their regional branches.

“The declaration shows that the NU does not only care about politics or religion, as many people think,” Fitria Aryani, the waste bank director of the NU’s Disaster Mitigation and Climate Change Agency (LPBI NU), told the media on Tuesday.

Fitria said the declaration followed an NU initiative launched in May, “Ngaji Sampah”, which translates to “sermons on waste”. In the program, broadcast online by NU’s central office in Jakarta once a month, clerics connect waste management with religious norms in their sermons.

“The next session of ngaji sampah, to be held after the Idul Fitri holiday, will discuss the reduction of plastic shopping bags,” said Fitria. (swd)

Preaching against plastic: Indonesia's religious leaders join fight to cut waste
Nation’s two largest Islamic organisations will call on network of 100 million followers to reduce plastic waste and reuse bags
Kate Lamb The Guardian 7 Jun 18;

Indonesia, one of the world’s biggest marine polluters, has decided to get religious – literally – about reducing plastic waste.

The government has announced it will join forces with the country’s two largest Islamic organisations, Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) and Muhammadiyah, using their extensive networks across the world’s largest Muslim-majority nation to encourage consumers to reduce plastic waste and reuse their plastic bags.

Together the two Islamic institutions have more than 100 million followers.

As part of the initiative, religious leaders will visit prayer groups across the country to preach about the importance of reducing plastic waste, explain how plastic waste can worsen the severity of natural disasters such as floods and landslides, and encourage consumers to switch to traditional bags, made from materials such as rattan and bamboo.

“We have local wisdom about these things in Indonesia,” Fitri Aryani, from NU’s disaster mitigation and climate change agency, told the Guardian, “In the past we had more environmentally friendly practices and used traditional bags. We want people to return to that, to the times of their grandmothers when people would go out and not use so much plastic.”

Environmental awareness and recycling programs, including teaching students how to make “eco-bricks” from discarded plastic, which have been run in several NU Islamic boarding schools in East Java for the past two years, will now be rolled out to the organisation’s wider networks.

Globally, Indonesia is the second-largest contributor to marine plastic waste after China.

Indonesia currently uses a whopping 9.8bn plastic bags per year, many of which end up in the country’s rivers and oceans, according to data from the Indonesian environment and forestry ministry.

Indonesia has committed to cut its plastic waste by 70% by 2025.

NU last month introduced “Ngaji Sampah,” or “Sermons on Waste.”

The religious sermons are broadcast online once a month and use Islamic principles to promote sustainable consumption and environmental awareness.

Levels of awareness about recycling and the environmental damage wreaked by plastic are low in Indonesia, where plastic packaging is ubiquitous, and the practice of burning plastic waste is common.

A shocking video filmed earlier this year that showed a diver off Bali swimming through a deluge of rubbish caught the attention of the government, and has since been cited by the environment minister.

Rosa Vivien Ratnawati, director general for waste management at Indonesia’s environment ministry said the government believes the declaration signed this week will have a widespread positive impact.

“These are the two biggest Islamic organisations in Indonesia, and they have structures that go down to the village level so this initiative to reduce plastic bag waste will impact all their members,” said Ratnawati, “That is tens of millions of people throughout Indonesia.”