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Jakarta Post

Long way to go from '€˜do not litter'€™ to reduce, reuse, recycle

  • Corry Elyda

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Mon, February 22, 2016   /  09:15 am
Long way to go from '€˜do not litter'€™ to reduce, reuse, recycle Business as usual: A cashier hands over a customer’s bag of shopping at a store in Medan, North Sumatra, on Friday. Although Medan was among 23 cities initially targeted for the plastic bag tax, managements of modern retailers in the city have yet to be made aware of the program.(JP/Apriadi Gunawan) (JP/Apriadi Gunawan)

Business as usual: A cashier hands over a customer'€™s bag of shopping at a store in Medan, North Sumatra, on Friday. Although Medan was among 23 cities initially targeted for the plastic bag tax, managements of modern retailers in the city have yet to be made aware of the program.(JP/Apriadi Gunawan)

Despite the need to increase awareness about waste management, the central government and Jakarta administration have yet to advance from the basic rule of '€œdo not litter'€ to a higher level of reduce, reuse, recycle.

Agus Supriyanto, an official at the Environment and Forestry Ministry'€™s Waste Management Directorate, said recently that the ministry wanted residents to change their habits and increase their awareness of hygiene and waste management.

Agus said, however, that every step needed time to be processed. '€œTherefore, for example, we did not immediately take action when members of the Plastic Bag Diet movement urged us to produce a policy reducing the use of plastic bags in 2013,'€ he said in a recent discussion.

He referred to a community that has publicized concern about the mounting use of plastic bags. Plastic Bag Diet (DKP) estimates that Indonesia uses 9.8 billion plastic bags a year from major retailers alone.

Agus, who is the retailer education department head at the directorate, said the ministry eventually took steps to issue a circular late last year, calling on retailers to charge their customers for plastic bags and local administrations to issue regulations on the program.

'€œWe will evaluate the program in three months before issuing a ministry regulation,'€ he said.

Agus said, however, he could not guarantee that the ministry regulation, which is more binding and stricter than the circular, would eventually be issued. '€œI hope it will,'€ he said.

The central government has already issued regulations to enforce customers, producers and retailers to be more responsible with their waste. They include a 2012 government regulation on domestic waste management that obliges individuals and producers to reduce and treat their waste.

Agus said, however, that enforcing the regulation was not easy. '€œIt will not be effective if all stakeholders do not agree to comply with it,'€ he said.

The ministry cannot even force local administrations to participate in the plastic bag tax program, resulting in cities withdrawing or postponing their participation only days before it was implemented on Sunday, coinciding with the National Waste Awareness Day.

Of the planned 23 cities, only seven participated on Sunday.

Reports from communities have shown that even enforcement against factories dumping their dangerous waste directly into rivers is inconsistent.

The same political will, or lack thereof, is shown by the Jakarta administration, which issued a lauded bylaw on waste management in 2013. The bylaw, which includes incentives and punishments to encourage residents to reduce, reuse and recycle waste, has never been enforced.

The city is still struggling to enforce the bylaw prohibiting residents from dumping waste on public facilities and in rivers.

Jakarta Sanitation Agency head Isnawa Adji said his agency could not handle the law enforcement by itself. '€œWe need other officials, especially district and subdistrict heads,'€ he said.

'€œEven if we catch someone littering red-handed, we need to see whether they can afford to pay the fines,'€ he said.

Some subdistrict heads have conducted operations to catch residents who dump litter in rivers.

Such operations are random and inconsistently applied as they depend on the willingness of the district or subdistrict heads.

Jakarta produces between 6,500 and 7,000 tons of garbage daily and 95 percent of the waste ends up untreated in the Bantar Gebang landfill in Bekasi. The rest is dumped in rivers, neglected corners, along railway tracks or burned on open fires.

The city administration currently encourages residents to form garbage banks. However, out of 2,700 community units (RW), only around 380 garbage banks had been created as of January.

Muhammad Bijaksana '€œSano'€ Junerosano, the founder of a social organization on environmental issues, Greeneration Indonesia, said that changing the culture with regard to waste-treatment awareness could not be done partially.

'€œThe government should initially create an integrated waste-treatment system from upstream to downstream,'€ he said.

He gave an example of sorting garbage, saying that residents would be reluctant to sort their garbage if the sanitation workers simply mixed it all together again in the landfill.

Sano said law enforcement was also essential. '€œOur laws clearly state that it is an obligation to treat our waste. Hence, omission is not tolerable,'€ he said.

Without law enforcement, a good system and education would be useless, he said. He did, however, appreciate the efforts of the central government. '€œIt has already initiated the policy of the plastic bag tax,'€ he said.

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