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Jakarta Post

Shoppers say goodbye to free plastic bags

Corry Elyda, Indra Harsaputra, Hotli Simanjuntak and N. Adri
Jakarta/Surabaya/Banda Aceh/Balikpapan   ●   Mon, February 22, 2016

After a year of preparation, Indonesia kicked off on Sunday the implementation of a new policy that requires modern retailers to charge customers for plastic bags in the country'€™s biggest concerted effort to reduce plastic waste.

The policy, launched to coincide with National Waste Awareness Day, has been implemented in seven major cities '€” Jakarta, Bandung, Bogor, Banda Aceh, Surabaya, Tangerang and Balikpapan '€” which together are home to almost 10 percent of the country'€™s 250 million people.

The plastic bag tax is expected to eventually be implemented in a total of 23 major cities.

In Jakarta, consumers have given the policy a warm welcome.

Christin, a 36-year-old housewife, was not surprised when a cashier at a convenience store in Palmerah, West Jakarta, said that she had to pay Rp 200 (1.5 US cent) to get a plastic bag for the bottle of mineral water she had just bought.

'€œOh, let me just put it in my bag,'€ she said, while zipping open her handbag and putting the mineral water in.

Christin said she had learned about the new policy from WhatsApp groups and the news.

'€œI think the policy is good for our environment,'€ she said.

In Surabaya, the country'€™s second largest city, 30-year-old Rita Sugiharto also expressed her support.

'€œI hope the program remains sustainable as it will prevent people from throwing away plastic bags carelessly,'€ she said.

Data from the Environment and Forestry Ministry shows that people consume up to 9.8 billion plastic bags every year in Indonesia, with 95 percent of those being made with plastics that take a considerable length of time to break down naturally.

In February last year, the ministry issued a circular stating that retailers should start charging for plastic bags. The call was prompted by petitions both online and offline, which attracted 70,000 signatures.

In Banda Aceh, Mayor Illiza Sa'€™aduddin said her administration would implement the policy in stages in a number of supermarkets and traditional markets.

Separately, the Balikpapan municipal administration in East Kalimantan expected the program to reduce the amount of garbage in the city by 50 tons daily.