28 February 2009

Go Indonesia! Government To Slash Plastic Bag Use (From Bali With Love)

Government to slash use of plastic bags
Thu, 02/19/2009 2:11 PM | National

The government has unveiled a plan to cut the use of plastic bags, and appealed to the managements of shopping centers across the country to provide consumers with "eco-friendly bags" to aid its efforts.

On Wednesday, environment minister Rachmat Witoelar said businesspeople who failed to cut the use of plastic bags would be fined.

"We are still looking into incentives and disincentives for supermarkets and shop owners," he said.

He said among the disincentives would be the naming in the media of supermarket owners as polluters.

"We will also call on the banking sector, including Bank Indonesia, to stop giving loans to businesses that don't cut the use of plastic," he said.

Rachmat is slated to conduct a string of inspections on supermarkets, department stores and grocery stores in Jakarta, Bandung and Surabaya, to oversee the use of plastic bags as part of commemorations to mark National Waste Day, which falls on Feb. 21.

The ministry claims it has signed an agreement with 59 shopping centers in Jakarta and 49 in Surabaya to voluntary cut their use of the bags.

In 2007, the country produced 6 million kilograms of plastic waste, accounting for 14 percent of the country's total waste of 42 million kilograms, ministry data shows.

Indonesians have long enjoyed using free plastic shopping bags.

Scientists say nonbiodegradable plastic bags use up natural resources, consume energy to manufacture, create litter, choke marine life and add to landfill waste.

Many countries, including Australia, Taiwan, China and India, are also cutting back on plastic bag use.

In Australia, 90 percent of retailers have signed up for the government's voluntary program to reduce plastic bags.

Taiwan has enacted a law that requires restaurants, supermarkets and convenience stores to charge consumers for plastic bags and utensils, causing a 69 percent drop in the use of the plastic products.

The Indonesian government has long come under pressure for its poor waste management, with almost all waste still disposed of in open landfills.

Domestic waste remains one of the biggest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions in Indonesia, largely because the most of the nation's landfills are poorly managed and use improper disposal systems.

Last year, the environment ministry assessed landfills in 170 cities, and found 60 percent of cities relied on unmanaged landfills.

The ministry will this Saturday host a gathering of thousands of people to mark the deadly Leuwigajah landfill accident in Bandung four years ago. About 150 people were buried alive in the garbage slide.

In 2008, the government enacted the waste management law, requiring local administrations to establish sanitary landfill sites by 2013 at the latest, and practice the reduce, reuse and recycle concept.

The law requires producers to manage packaging that cannot be recycled by nature, including plastic packaging for noodles or cosmetic products, styrofoam and diapers.

-JP/Adianto P. Simamora

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