Indonesia just set some ambitious goals for reducing the amount of waste products polluting its waters. At last week’s 2017 World Oceans Summit in Bali, it was announced up to $1 billion will be pledged each year toward reducing the country’s plastic waste by 70% over the next eight years.
It turns out that’s a hefty number, as Indonesia is only topped by China at dumping waste into the ocean, with World Bank estimating its quarter of a billion people responsible for between 0.8 and 1kg of plastic waste each year. The plan is part of the United Nations’ Clean Seas campaign, with nine other countries doing everything from cutting down on single use plastics to creating programs for better waste management.
Indonesia’s Coordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs, Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan, made the announcement and proposed an emphasis on using more biodegradable materials like seaweed as plastic alternatives. But according to a report from the Guardian, much of Indonesia’s plastic pollution problem lies in a poor understanding of plastic waste’s impact. It’s reported that as many as 10 million plastic bags are handed out for free in Indonesia each day. Many of those bags and other plastics make their way to the beaches and into the water easily, with the most populated cities naturally being the biggest culprits. According to the Regional Board for Waste Management (BPLHD), 13 percent of Jakarta’s 6,000 tons of waste per day is plastic litter. Denpasar contributes 10,725 tons per day and Palembang is responsible for 6,500 tons each day, according to BPLHD. So last year a trial tax for single-use plastic bags was introduced in 23 cities in Indonesia. It resulted in a significant decrease in Indonesia’s marine pollution for 2016 (as much as 50%), but both businesses and consumers were still resistant to the tax.
So exactly what that $1 billion will go to each year isn’t very clear at this point. Education programs, sticking with the taxes on single-use plastics, infrastructure, making alternative packaging available, or all of the above? Either way, it seems like a good wake up call now that we’ve seen how much plastic is making its way into the ocean around these 17,000 islands.