The plastic waste problem in Indonesia

By May 7th 2018 10:37 am

The mounting waste problem in Indonesia is at a crisis level. Ministry of Environment and Forestry states that Indonesia has reached 187.2 million tons of waste per year. The increasing number of population density which, in effect, decreases the amount of land to dump the trash becomes one of the factors which causes the volume of garbage to swell. Therefore, this problem must be solved immediately.

According to the data, the garbage volume in Bandung, Indonesia, is about 6,915 m3 per day. Assuming the average weight of trash is about 0.25kg, Bandung City’s waste may go up to 1,750 tons’ per day. If we compare the waste to the weight of a medium size elephant which is around 1,750 kg, Bandung may have an equivalent to 1,000 elephants’ worth of garbage every day.

Two percent of that number is from plastic debris. That amounts to about 35 tons of plastic waste per day in Bandung. If all plastic wastes are from plastic bags whose dimensions are 75 cm x 40 cm or 3,000 cm2 with each plastic bag weighs around 20 grams. 35 tons of plastic waste are equal to 1,750,000 plastic bags. If it is indeed that each plastic’s size is around 3.000 cm2, the plastic debris can cover the land up to 52.50 hectares. That’s the same size as 50 football fields, creating a mountain of plastic.



The question is why so many people use plastic?

Plastic is an easy to get and inexpensive material which can be used for almost everything. Therefore, people who like things easier for them to get or do tend to choose plastic bag for everyday use. However, they forget the harm a plastic could bring to the environment and health. Plastic contains an addictive substance called Bisphenol A (BPA) which causes cancer if it enters to human body.

The plastic waste management becomes more and more difficult due to the characteristic of plastic which is hard to decay. It takes hundreds of years to decompose the plastic material in a natural way. When it decays into tiny bits of plastic called microplastic, the microplastic can contaminate soil and groundwater.

“The plastic waste management becomes more and more difficult due to the characteristic of plastic which is hard to decay.”



So, what’s the solution?

Each person uses a minimum of 100 to 200 plastic bags each year. So there will be around one billion plastic bags used each year.

Therefore, the best solution is to change people’s habits in direction reducing the use of plastics. If you have to use plastic, however, you must separate the garbage with the organic one so that the plastic can be recycled later. The point is you can’t throw a plastic bag away carelessly.

“The best solution is to change people’s habit by reducing the use of plastics.”

Or, we can use a canvas made bag when we do grocery shopping.



Starting a movement

To overcome this problem, Vox Teneo Asia which is located in Bandung wants to start a movement. It aims to raise a sense of responsibility and awareness among people for the importance of environmental sustainability by reducing the use of plastic bags to shop and replacing them with a canvas or recycled bags.

This program will originally be applied only in the office. Then within a month, the team is encouraged to change the plastic bags with the canvas ones for shopping as well. We hope that it will become a habit for us applied in every aspect of our lives and create an agent of change for our society.



In the future, the program will be expanded outside of the office. We plan to distribute the canvas bags to the local supermarkets to be used by people outside of Vox Teneo. Even though the movement to raise awareness started by Vox Teneo is still small, we hope it will eventually grow. Because, every big thing starts from the very small one.

“It is true that the best way to decrease the use of plastic waste is to be aware of the danger a plastic bag could have in our lives.”

Hopefully this movement can keep going in a long run so that we can protect our environment in a simple way.

The topic about plastic is obviously trending this month. It is not only the cover story only National Geographic, but covered by The Fast Company. We are joining them!