Indonesia is the world’s largest archipelago and has one of the most biodiverse marine ecosystems on the planet. It is also second to China as the world’s second most ocean polluter. The country has realized that what it is contributing to the world in terms of plastic pollution cannot continue, and has formulated an action plan to reduce, and eventually eliminate plastic pollution. It has some serious goals—cut marine plastic waste by 70 percent in five years, and become plastic pollution free by 2040. That is just a single generation. According to the World Bank, Indonesia generates 24,500 tons of plastic waste every day. Of that, some estimate 20 percent of that plastic pollution ends up in the country’s rivers and oceans.

Raja Ampat has the highest recorded level of biodiversity, according to Conservation International. Hulivili/Wikipedia.

“Our beautiful nation is grappling with a serious plastic pollution challenge. We are home to the world’s largest archipelago – more than 17,000 islands, 81,000 kilometres of coastlines and a rich abundance of biodiverse marine ecosystems. Our pristine natural environment is a gift that we have treasured for thousands of years, and one that we must pass down to future generations,” Luhut B. Pandjaitan, Coordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs and Investment, Coordinating Ministry for Maritime Affairs of Indonesia said in the 2020 World Economic Forum annual meeting last week.

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“At the same time, the amount of plastic waste generated in Indonesia each year is growing at unsustainable levels. In our cities, our waterways and our coastlines, the accumulation of toxic plastic waste is harming our food systems and the health of our people. Our booming fishing industry, the second-largest in the world, is under threat from rising levels of marine plastic debris. By 2025, the amount of plastic waste leaking into our oceans could increase to 800,000 tonnes – if no action is taken.

“I’m proud to announce that Indonesia will be choosing not what is easy, but what is right. Rather than staying with a ‘business as usual’ approach, we will be embracing a sweeping, full-system-change approach to combatting plastic waste and pollution, one that we hope will spark greater collaboration and commitment from others on the global stage.”

“The vision goes even further: by 2040, we aim to achieve a plastic pollution-free Indonesia – one that embodies the principle of the circular economy, in which plastics will no longer end up in our oceans, waterways and landfills, but will go on to have a new life.”

Five points of action

To successfully reach the 70% reduction target by 2025, we are committed to leading five system-change interventions that will change the way plastics are produced, used, and disposed of.

  • 1) Reduce or substitute plastic usage to prevent the consumption of 1.1 million tonnes of plastic per year.
    We will work with industry leaders in Indonesia to transform their supply chains by rooting out plastic materials that can be avoided. Examples include replacing single-use packaging with reusable packaging; embracing new delivery models, such as refill shops; and empowering consumers to move away from single-use plastic consumption.
  • 2) Redesign plastic products and packaging with reuse or recycling in mind. Recognizing that some forms of plastics cannot be substituted with alternative materials, we need to make sure that they do not become mismanaged waste. We will work with manufacturers and innovators to champion an industry-wide shift towards circular plastics – with the ultimate goal of making all plastic waste a valuable commodity for reuse or recycling.
  • 3) Double plastic waste collection to 80% by 2025. Currently, around 39% of the total plastic waste in Indonesia is collected; in rural and remote areas, this figure is as low as 16%.[ii] We need to aggressively invest in our waste-collection infrastructure, both in the formal sector (government employees) and the robust informal sector (waste pickers, many of them women, who play a significant role in our national waste management efforts).
  • 4) Double our current recycling capacity to process an additional 975,000 tonnes of plastic waste per year.[iii] In 2017, only 10% of plastics generated in Indonesia were recycled. We urgently need to close this capacity gap by directing investment into expanding existing infrastructure facilities and building new infrastructure to match the explosive growth in plastic production across the ASEAN region.
  • 5) Build or expand safe waste disposal facilities to manage an additional 3.3 million tonnes of plastic waste per year.[iv] This is our last chance to put a safeguarding measure at the end of the plastic lifecycle to prevent plastic waste from becoming plastic pollution. These facilities will allow us to safely dispose of non-recyclable plastic materials, as well as plastic waste that is generated in remote locations without recycling facilities.

To achieve these goals, Indonesia will work with consumers and manufacturers to achieve a circular plastic solution, with the goal of making all plastics a valuable commodity for reuse and recycling. Manufacturers who claim that consumers prefer plastics should take note. With more than 100 million Indonesians, these manufacturers better start innovating or risk losing out on a massive market to sell their products.

Source: World Economic Forum