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How Do You Solve Indonesia’s Plastic Waste Problem?

How Do You Solve Indonesia’s Plastic Waste Problem?

In late 2018, a dead sperm whale was found washed ashore on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi with over 1,000 pieces of plastic in its stomach. Flip-flops, 115 drinking cups, and 25 plastic bags were among the items were discovered. This was a further reminder that the country is the world’s second-largest plastic polluter – some 1.2 million tons of plastic waste ends up in the ocean after China. Indonesia’s Coordinating Minister of Maritime Affairs Mr Luhut Pandjaitan reiterated the government’s mission to reduce plastic debris by 70% by 2025 and that this case should raise greater public awareness on reducing plastic waste. Public awareness is part of the issue, but real alternatives to single use plastics and how plastic is disposed of are what can make the biggest impact.

Mr Pandjaitan’s Ministry and the Ministry of Environment and Forestry are collaborating with the Global Plastic Action Partnership (GPAP) to take a data-driven approach to solving this crisis. With support from a $1 billion USD budget from the government, this cooperation aims to develop a system whereby all the plastic produced is ultimately recycled and reused, transforming the current ‘take-make-dispose’ system into a ‘circular economy’ model. This industrial system is based on three main principles; preserving and enhancing natural capital, optimizing resource yields, and fostering system effectiveness.

By working with stakeholders throughout Indonesia’s plastic ecosystem, the data gathered through this model can estimate the investment needed, greenhouse gas emissions, socio-economic impact, and the timeline required; thus developing a roadmap of solutions tailored to a specific region’s plastic waste problems.

Plastic business players argue that it is due to poor waste disposal and management that is the root of Indonesia’s plastic waste problem. According to the Association of Indonesian Olefin, Aromatic and Plastic Industry (Inaplas), the country’s plastic waste consumption is 19kg per capita per year which is still much lower than other countries. In Western Europe, plastic consumption alone reaches more than 100kg per capita per year. Moreover, the lack of awareness and education on how damaging plastic waste can be on the environment – particularly amongst the lowest socio-economic demographic – and budget constraints at the regional level are other contributing factors to Indonesia’s prolonged problem.

One company leading the fight against plastic waste is Lestari Polimer who created ENVIPLAST®, a pioneer of bio-based polymer compound products. ENVIPLAST® products are derived from raw materials such as cassava, corn, and other industrial natural starches as well as vegetable derivatives – materials found in abundance in Indonesia. The products break down via naturally occurring processes and thus do not cause microplastic pollution to the environment, in addition to being edible by animals.

ENVIPLAST®’s products include:

Compound pellets (used to make plastic bags)
Laundry bags
Garbage bags
Bio-based film

ENVIPLAST®’s continuous investment in research and development has enabled the company to rapidly respond to rapidly to the needs of growing industries in Indonesia. The company, for instance, has now developed a range of wrapping film that can be used as packaging for electronic products and food due to its protective properties. The company plays an active role in supporting the government’s environmental policies and has already enjoyed success in developing starch-derived bags for major retailers in Indonesia.

With increasing environmental concerns regarding the use of conventional PE bags coupled with a fast growing middle-class, ENVIPLAST® is readily positioned as a solution to Indonesia’s plastic waste management woes.

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