CLIMATE CHANGE: JAKARTA- Public Awareness, Participation Key to Curbing Plastic Waste in Indonesia, Officials Say

Indonesia is the world’s second-biggest plastic polluter after China, according to a 2015 study by the University of Georgia, which was published in the academic journal, Science. Southeast Asia’s largest economy generates about 3.22 million metric tons of mismanaged plastic waste annually, about 40 percent of which ends up in the oceans. (Antara Photo/Wira Suryantala)

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Jakarta. Public awareness and participation are key to reducing plastic waste in the archipelago, senior officials said this week, adding that Indonesia should also consider banning the use of plastic shopping bags.

“Why can’t we ban plastic bags? Are we going to die if we don’t use plastic bags? Of course not,” Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Minister Susi Pudjiastuti said at a press conference in Jakarta on Wednesday.

Susi has outlawed the use of disposable plastic products, including bottles and straws, by staff in her ministry.

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She added that she would push for a regulation on this matter, noting that Indonesians must join efforts to reduce plastic waste by changing their daily habits, such as refraining from using plastic bags at home.

Indonesia is the world’s second-biggest plastic polluter after China, according to a 2015 study by the University of Georgia, which was published in the academic journal, Science. Southeast Asia’s largest economy generates about 3.22 million metric tons of mismanaged plastic waste annually, about 40 percent of which ends up in the oceans.

In 2016, the government tried out a regulation, which required supermarkets and grocery stores to charge customers Rp 200 (about 1 US cent) for each plastic shopping bag.

Although the initiative managed to reduce plastic waste by more than a half, according to the Indonesia Plastic Bag Diet Movement (GIDKP), retailers did not continue with the policy after the trial ended.

The government planned earlier this year to impose an excise on plastic bags, but the Ministry of Finance said those plans would be delayed until next year.

However, in September, President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo signed a presidential regulation on the management of plastic waste, consisting of a nationwide action plan that included a public awareness campaign.

Also attending Wednesday’s press conference was Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi, who echoed Susi’s sentiments, saying that public participation in the campaign to reduce plastic waste was especially important.

“As individuals, we have a responsibility to the environment. We need to raise awareness on the issue of the environment, how tons of plastic waste come from one plastic bottle, one plastic bag,” Retno said.

Indonesia is hosting the fifth Our Ocean Conference in Nusa Dua, Bali, at the end of this month, which will see participants discuss ocean-related issues, including marine pollution.

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