Implementing additional fees for plastic bags

By admin, in Observations on .

As Jakarta and Indonesia in general are starting to embrace a “greener” philosophy, numerous efforts have been taken by both the government and private sectors to combat the ever-deteriorating waste situation. A few years back, the city of Bandung was faced with the grim situation of having waste overflowing from its garbage compounds due to the lack of space for the proper disposal of trash. Jakarta itself has experienced something similar. Jakarta’s main landfill of Bantar Gebang in Bekasi has been wrought with numerous problems throughout the year mainly because waste processing in the city can’t keep up with the influx of garbage from citizens.

In an effort to curb waste production, the government of Indonesia in collaboration with the Association of Retail Businesses of Indonesia (Aprindo) introduced a legislation back in February 2016 to apply a small fee for consumers who wish to use plastic bags whenever they buy groceries. This initiative mirrors several regulations that have been in effect throughout countries around the world such as the United Kingdom, Denmark, and France.

It goes without saying, the country’s plan to charge for plastic bags across 22 cities in the archipelago has been met with vigour discourse among citizens. The Environmental and Forestry Ministry’s head of public relations, Novrizal Tahar explained that the new legislation was meant to lighten the burden of waste matters in Indonesia, which has become “serious” in his own words. “In the beginning, this was about reducing garbage, in which plastic bags are considered one of them. In reality, this program is also about shaping the people’s understanding and mind-set towards trash, specifically those that are plastic,” Novrizal said to VIVA in February 2016.

Based on data from the Environmental and Forestry Ministry, Indonesia is the world’s second biggest consumers of plastic bags after China, at 9.8 billion bags per year. This in turn has made Indonesia as also the world’s second biggest producer of plastic waste at 5.4 million tons per year. “Based on these statistics, Indonesia’s domestic plastic waste production accounts for fourteen-percent of all waste that’s produced in the country,” said the head of Indonesia Solid Waste Association (InSWA) Sri Bebassari. Therefore it’s evident that the reduction of plastic waste may lead to significant ramifications in the future.

Behind all the data and statistics, real-world applications and effects are all that matters. Even though it’s still too early to tell whether the charges will actually influence waste production, the fees for plastic bags has certainly divided the public’s opinion with numerous people taking opposing stances on this matter. Some claim that it’s irresponsible of the government to burden the consumers when it comes to environmental programs. While others came out and said that a minimum fee of Rp.200 and at most Rp.5,000 is insignificant and therefore will not have as big of an effect on what the government hopes to accomplish.

Compared to other countries who have already applied a ban or additional taxes on plastic bags, the fee in Indonesia is still relatively cheap. First levied in 2002, Ireland applied a €0.22 tax for plastic bags or around Rp.3,300. France has imposed a fee of €0.54 or around Rp.8,000 for each reusable plastic bag ever since 2007. England has applied a charge of five pence since October 2015, which translates to around Rp.1,000 per plastic bag. In lieu of the charges, the government of the United Kingdom is expected to save up to £60 million in litter clean-up costs. Since its conception in Denmark, it is thought that the extra fees have saved about 66% of plastic and paper bags.

Based on the examples from these countries, it remains to be seen if Indonesia will follow a similar path of success. Even though the intention is well-intended, the regulations still raises a lot of question marks, namely where and what the funds collected will be utilised for. The head of the Consumer’s Foundation of Indonesia (YLKI), Tulus Abadi, has suggested that funds from the plastic bag fees should be managed by an independent body or a special branch of the government. “This special organisation can be composed of government officials and private citizens. It has to be audited each year and the funds can’t be touched by retail companies, nor should they have any business managing the funds,” Tulus said to Tempo.

The efforts to reduce plastic waste will hopefully culminate into the Gerakan Indonesia Bebas Sampah or the Indonesia Free of Waste Movement –a campaign to create a garbage-free Indonesia by the year 2020. Based on the additional fees of plastic bags, both the direction and intent is clear. However as stated above, there still needs to be a clearer regulation that oversees the management of funds and its appropriation. Ultimately, it’s a step in the right direction to solve the increasing dangers of uncontrolled waste production.

 

 

Q&A

 

 

Rina Alfrina – Media Planner

 

What’s your opinion on the paid plastic bags policy in supermarkets?

I honestly think it’s a good idea. It could be a start to reduce the plastic wastes. Other countries have already done it before us, so it’s a good start for Indonesia to be more responsible in keeping our Earth clean.

How often do you use a plastic bag?

Only if I have lots of groceries. If I only buy one or two things, I’d rather just put it on my personal bag, even before this policy was created.

Do you think the fee for the plastic bag is suitable?

Well I think it could be a little higher. For Rp.200, many would see that it’s not a big deal and keep using plastic bags anyway. Maybe Rp.1,000 would be good for one plastic bag, and the government could use the money to do something else to save the environment.

What else do you think the government should do to manage our plastic waste?

I think the government should educate the people more about dangers of plastic use and how it’s not easily degraded.

Do you think most Indonesians overuse plastic bags?

Indeed! We use plastics in almost every part of our daily life, especially foods. No wonder trash is piling up in our rivers and cause floods.

 

 

Irum Rahmi – Housewife

What’s your opinion on the paid plastic bags policy in supermarkets?

I’m quite surprised. I never realised plastic bags can be a huge problem. We usually don’t just throw it away, we use plastic bags to keep and store all sorts of things.

How often do you use a plastic bag?

Very often. Either from the supermarket, minimarket, or traditional market, I always use plastic bags to carry groceries.

Do you think the fee for the plastic bag is suitable?

It’s just Rp.200, so I don’t think that would make me want to stop using plastic bags right away. It’s not expensive and therefore it doesn’t feel like a financial burden.

What else do you think the government should do to manage our plastic waste?

The government need to manage better where the trash and waste go so it doesn’t pile up. That’s what I think causes so much plastic waste.

 

 

Yadi – Store clerk

What’s your opinion on the paid plastic bags policy in supermarkets?

It’s something new that we should learn. Not many of our customers know about this new policy, so we need to remind them that plastic bags aren’t free now.

Do they complain about it?

Yes, usually it’s the housewives who complain about that. We keep explaining that it’s not the store policy, rather it came from the government.

Since the new policy has been enforced, has there been any cutback of people using plastic bags?

Not really. People think it’s still quite cheap so they don’t mind paying for it. But I also see an increase in people bringing their own non-plastic shopping bags now.

Do you think this policy will succeed in reducing the amount of plastic waste?

I can’t say nor would I know about it at this point, because it’s just the start. Maybe in the future people will come to terms with the problems plastic waste brings and not overuse it anymore.

 

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