Corporates’ Role in Tackling Indonesia Waste Woes

Feb 2, 2022 | by Yosy Christy Natalia

The way ahead: Corporates’ role in tackling Indonesia waste woes

One of the leading countries to champion the cause of sustainability in south-east Asia is Indonesia. Despite its effort to pave the way for a better, greener, and more sustainable future, the country has been heavily criticized for its burgeoning waste crisis.

According to the UN Environment Programme, Indonesia is among the top plastic polluters in the world and produces roughly over 3 million tonnes of unmanaged plastic waste annually, about half of which ends up in the sea.

A World Bank report titled, Plastic Waste Discharges from Rivers and Coastlines in Indonesia, mentions marine plastic debris as a cause of concern in Indonesia. The global body calls for better local waste management mechanisms and practices in the country to curb the menace.

Numbing number

The report, published earlier this year, throws light on a range of startling facts about the gargantuan waste problem in Indonesia, some of them are listed below:

  • Indonesia generates approximately 7.8 million tons of plastic waste every year
  • 4.9 million tons of plastic waste is mismanaged with rural areas generating the most
  • Direct disposal in water contributes to plastic waste reaching rivers
  • An estimated 346.5 kton/year (estimated range of 201.1 – 552.3 kton/year) of plastic waste is discharged into the marine environment from land-based sources in Indonesia
  • Rivers carry and discharge 83% of the annual plastic debris that leaks into the marine environment from land-based sources.

How corporates add to the problem

Needless to say, business operations and activities contribute a great deal to the escalating food and plastic waste problem in Indonesia. Not to mention the harmful byproducts from different industries that pollute and damage the environment.

Industries that deal with natural resources, such as mining, energy, among others, are known to contribute the most, over 90%, to industry-led pollution whereas Indonesia’s manufacturing sector has proved to be quite effective in mitigating the country’s waste problem.

State’s effort

The government has already put in place an ambitious plan of tackling plastic waste with the island of Bali banning single-use plastics in 2018. The capital city of Jakarta followed suit in its shopping centers and street markets in 2020. With its five-point action plan, the government aims to minimize marine plastic waste by 70% by 2025 and get rid of plastic pollution entirely by 2040.

While international bodies call for a stronger, stricter, more streamlined, and focused action from the government to tackle Indonesia’s waste problem, it is a collective effort.

Role of companies, nonprofits, and social enterprises

From local players to multinationals, enterprises to non-profits alike have taken up the challenge to mitigate and phase out Indonesia’s waste woes. Bye Bye Plastic Bags is an environmental non-profit set up by young climate activists Melati and Isabel Wijsen and is known today as one of the largest environmental nonprofits in Bali.

Waste4Change is another social enterprise dedicated to fighting the waste-management crisis in Indonesia while also educating people on how to manage waste efficiently.

APRIL Group works closely towards supporting the SDGs and helping Indonesia tackle the waste woes. The group’s food waste management program ‘Clear Your Plate’ is among the notable campaigns in the country. Unilever, Bank DBS, The Body Shop are among many global companies that are committed to tackling and mitigating Indonesia’s waste crisis.

Unilever Ltd aims to reduce the amount of virgin plastic by 50% by 2025 besides ensuring the fully reusable, recyclable, or compostable packaging of products.

The Body Shop runs a recycling program Bring Back Our Bottle that lets the customers return empty packaging in the store.

Corporates and community bodies also conduct timely cleanup drives to spread the word on Indonesia’s waste trouble and get people involved in the cause. However, the fight against waste is not just Indonesia’s alone but a global one with not only local players and the government and civil organizations amping up their effort but conglomerates and business giants as well.

Way out and way ahead

In its report, the World Bank lists out a series of suggestions to tackle Indonesia’s waste issues. The global body calls for strengthening the following among many pertinent suggestions to help curb and eliminate Indonesia’s waste woes.

  • Solid waste management practices in the country
  • Spreading awareness regarding waste management and disposal in rural areas
  • Better access to solid waste management facilities, especially in rural areas.
  • An increased number of national sanitation campaigns
  • New and well-managed final disposal sites
  • Reducing plastics consumption and preventing plastic pollution
  • Regular mapping and monitoring of waste data.

Businesses and corporations operating in Indonesia have the task to take a cue from these suggestions to do their bit in steering the country on the path of a cleaner, greener, and more sustainable future. Needless to say, most organizations have committed to phasing out the use of single-use plastic and implemented measures such as waste management systems, especially for warehouse waste, recycling initiatives, cleanliness drives, et cetera, but the need of the hour is to conduct more research and arrive at better, quicker and more innovative, efficient and resourceful ways to tackling challenges.

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