Indonesia has a serious garbage problem

Every day, Indonesians produce millions of tons of garbage, making it one of the top garbage-producing countries in the world.  When Maritime Fairtrade visits the Tempat Pengolahan Sampah Terpadu (TPST) dump site, Bantar Gebang Bekasi, there were mountains of waste everywhere, the majority being plastic waste.

Bantar Gebang dump site.

Watim, a scavenger, told Maritime Fairtrade that garbage is constantly coming into the TPST dump site, the largest landfill in Indonesia.  “This place is like a terminal, every hour of the day, you see garbage trucks coming in and going out,” he said.

Watim, a scavenger at the dump site.

According to Plastic Bank Indonesia, every year, out of the 7.8 million tons of plastic waste, 4.9 million tons are not managed properly, with 83 percent finding their way into the ocean, threatening the marine ecosystem.

Paola Cortese, country manager, Plastic Bank Indonesia, said: “Indonesia is in a plastic waste emergency right now.”

The government wants to achieve zero plastic waste by 2040.  However, Paola said there are many challenges, for example, there is a lack of clear scope of responsibility for manufacturers, who are still not aware of the harm of using too much plastic packaging or how to manage their plastic waste properly.

The Ministry of Environment and Forestry (KLHK) noted that in 2021, the volume of waste has reached 68.5 million tons, doubled the amount as compared to 10 years ago.  Plastic waste comprised 17 percent, or 11.6 million tons.

Plastic waste.

Ghofar, urban campaigner, National Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Walhi), said in the past, 60 percent of waste was organic.  But now, it is mostly man-made.  

Ghofar said one way to reduce this huge plastic waste is through legislation, by way of issuing a Ministerial Regulation (Permen) through the Ministry of Environment and Forestry (KLHK) Number 75 of 2019 concerning a Roadmap for Reducing Waste by Producers, which aims to reduce 30 percent plastic waste by 2029.

Paola said Plastic Bank Indonesia is using a reward system to encourage plastic collecting.  So far, 12,000 members of Heroes of the Ocean have managed to prevent one billion plastic bottles from ending up in the ocean. The collected plastic waste is sent for recycling.

Through the use of the reward system where collectors are given cash or other benefits, Plastic Bank Indonesia’s program can help the environment while reducing poverty, especially in coastal areas in Indonesia. 

All photos credit: Iqbal Ramdhani

Iqbal Ramdhani

Iqbal Ramdhani

Iqbal Ramdhani, Indonesia Correspondent, is a former journalist with a lifestyle magazine. He enjoys sharing his writing with the public, and finds happiness when his content can help readers advance their careers.

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