Indonesian Government-backed report suggests reducing recycled plastic imports

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Indonesia Government report on plastic pollution
Plastic pollution in Indonesia is to be tackled by the Indonesian Government

A study supported by the Indonesian Government has proposed reducing imports of recycled plastic imports in order to free up recycling capacity in the country for domestic sources.

The report, Radically Reducing Plastic Pollution in Indonesia, has been produced by the World Economic Forum in collaboration with the Indonesia National Plastic Action Partnership, which was formed by the Indonesian Government.

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Although most of the report is about an action plan to increase domestic collections of plastics, recycling infrastructure and circular economy design and production of plastic packaging, it proposes that plastic recycling imports could be reduced to enable more capacity for recycling of domestic plastics.

The report says that Indonesia switched from being a net exporter to a net importer of plastic waste in January 2018 following the decision of the Chinese Government to ban imports of recycled plastics.

It adds that one study (that is not referenced) suggests that 5-20% of plastics imported into countries in the Global South are low value and may lead to burning or dumping.

However, it concedes that a conservative estimate is that greater than 95% of waste that pollutes the ocean is from domestic Indonesian sources rather than imports. Indeed, it makes the point that the amount from domestic sources is likely to be higher than 95%.

It also raises the point that the Indonesian media has highlighted that paper imports contaminated by plastic are also a source of plastic pollution. But it reiterates that pollution leakage from imports is less than 5% of total contamination from Indonesia.

Therefore, the report argues that imports may need to be reduced. It says: “Although plastic waste imports may be small in comparison to total plastic waste generation (about 3%), they are much larger as a share of recycling feedstock: in 2018 imports accounted for 30% of recycling feedstock in Indonesia.

“Reducing imports could free up recycling capacity that can be used for the substantial extra volumes of Indonesian waste that must be collected to meet the country’s targets for preventing plastic pollution.”

In order to double plastic waste collection to 80% by 2025 and double recycling capacity by 2025, the Indonesian Government plans to adopt many of the measures in the report.

The action plan sets out five points of action. These are:

  • Reduce or substitute plastic usage to prevent the consumption of more than 1 million tonnes of plastics per year by 2025
  • Redesign 500,000 tonnes of plastic products and packaging for reuse or high-value recycling
  • Double plastic-waste collection from 39% to 84% by 2025 by boosting state-funded and informal or private sector collection systems
  • Double current recycling capacity to process an additional 975,000 tonnes per year of recycled plastic by 2025
  • Build or expand controlled waste disposal facilities to manage an additional 3.3 million tonnes of plastic waste by 2025.

Indonesia Coordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs and Investment Luhut B. Pandjaitan said: “I am proud to share Indonesia’s Action Plan as a source of hope and inspiration in these challenging times.

“Plastic pollution is an issues that affects our nation deeply. It would destroy our pristine marine ecosystems, harms the livelihoods and health of our citizens, and stands in the way of our path towards a resilient future, one built on the basis of harmony between people and planet.

“We will not allow this looming crisis to continue to grow. Instead, we are taking bold, decisive action at every level across every sector in Indonesia to undertake the transformations that are needed to achieve near-zero plastic pollution in Indonesia.”

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