Reuse Revolution Movement in the Middle of a Pandemic
Photo credit: Rahyang Nusantara
In the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic that is spreading the world today, environmental movements especially in reducing single-use plastic waste are being threatened. Some media said that the policy of plastic bags ban in the United States was asked to be suspended or repealed because it was considered to be a carrier of coronavirus. Even Starbucks globally pushes outlets everywhere to temporarily stop using tumblers. Fortunately, Starbucks outlets in Indonesia still prove that plastic waste reduction remains a priority issue by promoting the use of tumblers on a regular basis.
Reusable containers are considered as a medium for spreading disease. According to several studies published by various media, the coronavirus can last for hours on surfaces made of various cotton fabrics, such as clothing and reusable shopping bags. But this is different if reusable shopping bags are made of plastic materials, such as polyester and nylon. The virus lasts the longest on a plastic surface, which reaches 72 hours or three days, some even can reach five days.
Every surface material has the potential to be a carrier factor for any virus and bacteria. Therefore, the action that must be done is to regularly wash the reusable containers and packaging that we have. Especially for reusable shopping bags, it must be washed after we buy raw food ingredients, such as meat and fish.
In the current pandemic conditions, the use of single-use plastics, such as plastic bags, has indeed increased significantly, especially for food delivery service.
Considering the current condition, plastic waste which has the potential to become a virus-carrying factor must actually be handled like hazardous waste.
Plastic Bags Ban in Indonesia
The good news is that regulations on the plastic bags ban that are enforced in several cities in Indonesia, such as Banjarmasin, Balikpapan, and Bogor, remain consistent in various modern retail and shopping centers. There are 20 cities and 2 provinces in Indonesia that already have regulations on the prohibition of plastic bags. Bali is even more advanced by banning the use of straws and polystyrene foam.
Data from the Ministry of Environment and Forestry of the Republic of Indonesia states that each person produces an average of 0.8 kilograms of waste a day and around 15% is plastic waste. In one year, approximately 9.85 billion pieces of plastic bags were used only from modern retail throughout Indonesia. This number does not include plastic bags from traditional markets. This is almost equivalent to an area of 65.7 hectares of plastic bags or about 60 times the size of a soccer field.
Based on research conducted by Dr. Jenna Jambeck, a prominent researcher from the University of Georgia, United States, Indonesia is ranked second largest contributor of plastic waste to the ocean. Other research that also mentions the problem of plastic waste in Indonesia was also conducted by the Faculty of Maritime and Fisheries, Hasanudin University, which found that one-third of fish samples captured in Eastern Indonesia contained microplastics. If preventive measures are not taken immediately, according to the World Economic Forum, there will be more plastic waste in the sea than fish by 2050.
Efforts to ban plastic bags and other plastics is a form of government commitment to saving the environment from plastic pollution. This is a concrete action in achieving the national target of waste reduction (30% by 2025) and certainly supports the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), where prevention and reduction of waste generation on land and at sea are the main targets to be achieved by 2030. Even nationally, the Ministry of Environment and Forestry has set a road map of waste reduction by producers, which states that all kinds of single-use plastic products and packaging must be banned, from production to consumption, effectively by January 1, 2030.
Environmental, Social, and Economic Impacts of Plastic Bags Ban
Photo credit: Rahyang Nusantara
For example, the city of Bandung was the first city in Indonesia to have a local regulation issued at the end of 2012 on reducing the use of plastic bags. Data collected from temporary landfills in early 2012 showed that the city of Bandung uses approximately 2.4 million pieces of plastic bags per year. Four years later, after they had local regulations and contributed to the trial of pay for plastic bags, they collected data from temporary landfills and showed that they only use 1 million pieces of plastic bags per year.
The capital of the Republic of Indonesia, Jakarta, based on 2018 research results showed that 300 million pieces of plastic bags are used by the people of Jakarta every year. After the governor's regulation was issued earlier this year, the public was optimistic that there would be a large number of reductions in plastic waste.
The Bali Province, which ambitiously banned the use of plastic bags, straws and polystyrene foam, not only targeted shopping malls, modern retailers, and traditional markets, but also religious activities. Bali is indeed known as one of the regions in Indonesia that is still quite bold with Hindu religious activities every day. We can see canang stored in the front yard of every house, shop, restaurant, and other locations. As the impact of development, many canang and banten (offerings) are wrapped in plastic packaging. With the existence of the plastic ban regulations, it becomes a reminder and encouragement for the Balinese people to remain the philosophy of life in Bali, Tri Hita Karana, a philosophical concept that basically emphasizes three human relationships in this world, including relationships with fellow humans, relationships with the natural surroundings, and relationships with God that are related to one another.
The city of Banjarmasin, as the first city to completely ban the use of plastic bags in 2016, has a unique way to replace people's dependence on plastic bags. According to the Banjarmasin City Department of Trade and Industry, the purun basket handicraft industry has begun to rise in the past two years. The Purun basket handicraft industry is now to be developed as a creative economy. With continued assistance, the purun basket industry has also entered the modern shopping and retail centers.
In conclusion, the efforts to save the environment are inseparable from social life and economic improvement.
The basic principles of sustainable development are also based on these three things: environment, social, economy. The environment is a limitation factor for what we do as humans in social and economic activities. The use of reusable shopping bags and other reusable containers/packaging will benefit the environment and public health if we treat it wisely, by using it optimally and washing it regularly to avoid various diseases. Plastic waste has been weighing on the earth for so long. Prevention efforts, such as total ban and pay for plastic bags and other single-use plastics, are strategic efforts to reduce the earth's burden on plastic waste.
About the Author
Rahyang Nusantara has more than 8 years of experience in environmental
campaigns. He obtained a Bachelor of Agriculture from Universitas Padjadjaran, Bandung (2012) and Master of Communications Science from Universitas Paramadina, Jakarta (2019). He is currently working as the National Coordinator of the Indonesia Diet Plastic Bag Movement. His passion in environmental issues, especially in single-use plastic reduction, brings him to work together with government, business, experts, civil society organizations, especially youth groups. He is also incorporated into various national and global organizations; Steering Committee at the Alliance of Zero Waste Indonesia (AZWI), Core member at the Break Free From Plastic Movement, Regional Advisory Committee at the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA), and Network Coordinator at the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) Youth – Indonesia.