Indonesia’s Coordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs, Luhat Binsar Pandjaitan, has announced a pledge of up to $1 billion USD to reduce Indonesia’s plastic waste by 70 percent over the next eight years. He made the announcement at the 2017 World Oceans Summit in Nusa Dua, Bali. Luhat confirmed that Indonesia will be focusing on plastic alternatives and education initiatives to achieve their goal. Their plan is part of the global U.N. Clean Seas campaign to reduce major marine waste sources by 2022.
Plastic pollution in Indonesia
According to a 2015 report in the journal Science, Indonesia is the second largest plastic polluter of the world’s oceans, second only to China. Indonesians use up to 10 million plastic bags each day. The World Bank estimates that each of Indonesia’s 250 million people uses around 2.2 pounds (1 kg) of plastic bags each year. Much of this plastic ends up in Indonesia’s waterways and on the beaches.
At the center of the Coral Triangle, Indonesia has incredible marine biodiversity. The abundance and variety of Indonesia’s marine life supports tourism, fisheries and provides food security for the inhabitants of its 17,000 islands. Plastic pollution not only damages the country’s reputation and value as a clean tourist destination but also has far-reaching consequences within the food chain.
Many plastics degrade in the oceans over time into particles less than 1 mm in size, called microplastics. Concern has grown about plastic toxins leaching into the tissues of marine animals. Scientists are still studying the health risks of consuming microplastics.
Addressing the problem
Luhat’s ministry is meeting to formulate policies aimed at reducing Indonesia’s plastic waste. Initial plans include using biodegradable plastic alternatives, such as cassava and seaweed products, introducing education initiatives, and a possible nationwide tax on plastic bags. A trial tax for single-use plastic bags passed in 23 Indonesian cities in 2016. Marine pollution thusly decreased by up to 50 percent that year although businesses and consumers resisted the tax.
Indonesia’s plans form part of the United Nations Clean Seas campaign as mentioned above. Nine other countries are involved in the campaign. Individuals can get involved by committing to plastic reduction actions on the campaign website.