Indonesia waging war on its oceans of plastic
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Indonesia waging war on its oceans of plastic

INDONESIA is taking action to combat its catastrophic problem of polluting the oceans with plastic debris, says Environment and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya Bakar.

According to the Jakarta Post, Siti Nurbaya made the statement during the commemoration of National Waste Awareness Day in Banjarmasin, South Kalimantan. Adding that the government would officially declare the commitment on Feb 23.

Indonesia is also scheduled to present a national action plan during the fourth World’s Ocean Summit in Bali from Feb 22 to 24.

The announcement will be welcome news to environmentalist as Indonesia has the dubious honour of being listed as the second biggest marine polluter in the world.

SEE ALSO: Why reducing plastic waste should be an urgent priority in Asia

The country produces 187.2 million tonnes of plastic waste each year according to a 2015 study published in the journal Science. China stands at No 1, producing 262.9 million tonnes of plastic waste, most of which ends up in the ocean.

In Indonesia, fast economic growth accompanied by increased waste is outpacing the capacity of infrastructure to manage this waste, leading to a significant amount finding their way into the ocean.

Big cities are particular culprits, with Jakarta leading the way. According to the Regional Board for Waste Management, 13 percent of Jakarta’s waste – some 6,000 tonnes per day – is plastic litter. Other big cities like Denpasar and Palembang generate huge quantities of waste: 10,725 tonnes per day in Denpasar and 6,500 tonnes per day in Palembang.

Indonesian waters are the victims of this massive plastic pollution, which is causing serious environmental problems.

The government is taking steps to curb the problem, as Siti Nurbaya said on Saturday that Indonesia has been highlighted as one of a handful of countries committed to combating the problem.

SEE ALSO: 5 Asian countries produce majority of plastic in world’s oceans

“Indonesia has received special attention because we are one of 10 countries, including Brazil, committed to cleaning up waste in the ocean.”

Steps have already been taken towards a solution by charging customers for the use of plastic bags, an initiative that was introduced last year.

The policy is imposed on all retailers, including supermarkets, stores and vendors at traditional markets.

Bandung Mayor, Ridwan Kamil, said that the initiative is working and that “buying plastic bags can generate Rp 1 billion a day (US$75,000) (for the city government). In a year we should have IDR360 billion (US$27 million) from plastic bag sales. That can be earmarked to buy dump trucks, build incinerators or a recycling plant,” he said.

While these are steps in the right direction, more action is needed according to the World Economic Forum who recommends that countries rethink how they use plastics with respect to function and desired lifetime of products. Suggesting that, at the end of its life, discarded plastic should be considered a resource for capture and reuse, rather than simply a disposable convenience.