It may not be difficult for many people to stop using plastic straws in a restaurant or to bring a tote bag when going shopping, but getting rid of plastic packaging such as that used for cosmetics products may present more of a challenge.
It could be in the form of shampoo sachets, detergent bottles, plastic packaging for sliced bread, or the plastic wrap used for new books. Many people just throw away such plastic packaging and it ends up in landfills or, at worst, in the ocean.
While plastic packaging still plays an important role in the manufacturing industry, there is a growing awareness from the government and certain business players to use more environmentally friendly packaging materials for their products.
The Environment and Forestry Ministry, for example, is formulating a road map to encourage producers to use more environmentally friendly packaging materials that can be recycled and to reduce single-use plastic.
The road map was set to be completed this year, said the ministry’s director general for solid waste, hazardous waste and toxic substance management Rosa Vivien Ratnawati.
Rosa said the road map, known as the extended producer responsibility (EPR), would guide producers to be responsible by reducing waste generated from their goods, packaging and services in the form of plastic, aluminum cans, glass and paper.
“In the road map, we will encourage industry players to redesign their packaging to be more environmentally friendly by phasing out the use of single-use plastics. We will also ask them to provide a drop box for consumers to return post-consumer waste and packaging, so it can be reused or recycled,” she said on the sidelines of recent event held in Jakarta by the British Chamber of Commerce in Indonesia (BritCham) on the multi-stakeholder approach to achieving sustainable packaging and tackling plastic waste.
The road map is intended for three categories of businesses, namely brand owners and manufacturers of food and beverages, consumer goods, cosmetic and personal care products; retailers, including supermarkets, hypermarkets, minimarkets, convenience stores, specialty stores, shopping malls and traditional markets; and the food and beverage service industry, comprising hotels, restaurants, cafes, food halls and catering businesses.
A report by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation shows plastic production has surged over the past 50 years from 15 million tons in 1964 to 311 million tons in 2014. Plastic packaging alone, according to the study, represents 26 percent of the total plastic use.
However, only 14 percent of plastic packaging was collected for recycling. The study indicated that 95 percent of the single-use plastic packaging worth between US$80 and $120 billion lost its economic value annually. If they are recycled they can still generate high economic value. The rest ended up as waste, polluting the soil and sea.
The report shows that every year, 8 million tons of waste is dumped into the ocean, of which plastic packaging represents a big share.
A number of companies have introduced a number of initiatives to reduce the use of plastic. In 2010, Unilever launched a sustainable living program to reduce disposable packaging and to increase recyclable packaging.
“With respect to packaging our commitment is clear, which is to make sure that essentially by 2025 our plastic packing is reusable, renewable or compostable,” said Unilever’s chief procurement officer David Ingram also at the BritCham event.
Indonesian Food and Beverage (F&B) Producer Association (GAPMMI) chairman Adhi S. Lukman told The Jakarta Post on Aug. 15 that in the past few years, F&B industry players had also taken the initiative to redesign their packaging.
“Some players have made effort to reduce plastic, for example in PET bottles. In the past one bottle could weigh 32 grams [of plastic], now with the latest technology we can reduce it to 16-18 g, while for mineral water it can also reach only 9 g for now. Moreover, in separation and waste management, many industries are working with scavengers and garbage banks,” Adhi said.
Despite all the environmental problems plastic packaging creates when it ends up as disposable waste, plastic packaging is holding a prominent role for industries, especially F&B. Adhi said plastic packaging could extend the shelf life of a product, maintain product quality, keep a product from contamination, as well as make distribution possible.
Adhi agreed a road map to reduce plastic waste should be created. However, the road map should have involved all the stakeholders, not only the producers but also the government, waste management industry, academics and consumers. He also hopes the government would make the extended stakeholders responsibility instead of the EPR.
“Everyone has their responsibilities and roles to tackle this national problem,” he said.
According to the Environment and Forestry Ministry, around 66 million tons of waste was produced across the archipelago in 2018, about 60 percent of which was organic waste and 15 percent plastic waste. Several regional governments across Indonesia have stepped up their game to reduce plastic waste including Bali Provincial Government and 19 district or city governments, which have banned the use of disposable plastic such as single-use plastic bags and plastic straws.
By: Riza Roidila Mufti