Indonesian Plastic Pollution

Indonesia is currently second, only to China, in the world in contribution of plastic pollution. Out of the roughly 2.41 million tons of plastic pollution in the entire ocean, 200,000 tons come from Indonesian rivers and streams. Four of Indonesia’s main rivers rank on the top 20 most polluted rivers in the world. Public water in Indonesia has become contaminated with E. Coli, fecal matter, and other dangerous pathogens. This has caused most of the water supply to be undrinkable. Because many citizens do not have access to clean water pipes, about 80% of the population is forced to consume, bath in, and use the polluted river water, daily. So far, the government has put in little effort to fund and supply clean water pipes, so people are still forced to consume contaminated water or use bottled water, which, in turn, contributes to the pollution problem. Because many Indonesian islands sit in the Indonesian Throughflow, it is common to find foreign plastics floating through these areas. Plastic waste and pollution from Malaysia, the Philippines, and elsewhere in the Pacific Ocean is often brought into Indonesian waters. To combat this extreme amount of pollution, Bali officials ordered 700 cleaners and 35 trucks to collect some of the garbage on Bali beaches. While they collected many hundreds of tons of garbage, the problem still persists and is found on many more islands, not just Bali. A step that could be taken to further clean Indonesia, could be to deploy these people and trucks on multiple islands and have the government fund a longer term clean-up project. Indonesian officials say they plan to reduce plastic waste 70% by 2025, but this goal, while being extreme, could only be attainable with more government action and funding. In 2016, a trial policy to charge a fee for plastic bags in shops was set in place. This policy, while only being a trial at the time, was a step in the right direction toward reaching the goals of reducing plastic pollution by 70%. Making this policy nationwide would contribute to the solution of plastic pollution in Indonesia. Because the majority of the plastic pollution in the oceans originates on land, reducing the amount of plastic used on land in the first place will reduce the amount of pollution found in the ocean. Other policies and trials to reduce plastic waste and recycle materials have been put in place recently. One plan, to turn waste into plastic roads has proven to be an effective and successful use of recycled plastics and would be a good project to continue. The roads will use a large amount of the plastic and are an easy way to collect and eliminate the waste in the ocean. Again, more government funding would assist in promoting and progressing this project. Finally, outside help would be required to eliminate a significant amount of plastic pollution in the ocean. Due to the Indonesian Throughflow, a sum of the plastic waste in Indonesian waters originates from other countries. Efforts within those countries to reduce plastic waste or prevent the flow into Indonesian, as well as into other countries, water would be necessary in reducing the waste by 70% and would help in the overall reduction of plastic waste, worldwide.

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