The administration of Surakarta, Central Java, has withdrawn from a national policy that requires modern retailers to charge customers for plastic bags, deeming the initiative unlikely to cut plastic bag consumption.
Surakarta Mayor FX Hadi Rudyatmo said that the charge, at Rp 200 (2 US cents) per bag, was too low to serve as a deterrent, as is intended.
'The plastic bag policy will not change people's habits, especially because plastic bags are sold for only Rp 200. If the price were set at Rp 20,000 per bag, people would choose to bring their own bags,' Rudy said at Surakarta city hall on Monday.
The Jakarta administration has also withdrawn from the program, and will instead enforce a 2013 bylaw on waste management, which Governor Basuki 'Ahok' Tjahaja said was sufficient to reduce plastic waste.
The policy was issued by Environment and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya on National Waste Awareness Day through a circular, and stipulates that retailers must not give plastic bags to customers for free, but must charge at least Rp 200 for each bag.
An agreement between the Indonesian Retailers Association (Aprindo) and city administrations was recently signed in Makassar, South Sulawesi, also on National Waste Awareness Day.
When the initiative was launched, the Surakarta administration said it had been encouraging people to take their own non-plastic bags when shopping. If modern shops still provided paid plastic bags, Rudy said, the plastic reduction policy would be meaningless.
He went on that the administration would cooperate with the Surakarta branch of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Kadin), as well as micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) to produce shopping bags from non-plastic and recycled materials such as recyclable paper, rattan, natural fibers and coconut leaves.
The mayor is also considering asking private companies, through their corporate social responsibility (CSR) programs, to participate in the plan.
'We will sit down and discuss programs to produce recycled shopping bags,' Rudy said.
Separately, Surakarta Kadin chair Sri Haryanto said that businesspeople in the city would support the efforts to reduce the use of plastic bags, adding that Kadin was engaged in discussions with a number of MSMEs to produce environmentally friendly shopping bags.
'I think such programs could benefit MSMEs. We hope they will come up with creative products to increase the choices available,' Sri said.
Meanwhile, modern retailers in Surakarta are ready to comply with Rudi's instructions.
Alfamart regional spokesperson Firly Firlandia said the company had applied the policy according to the circular issued by the environment ministry.
Responding to the mayor's instruction to ignore the policy, however, Firly said that Alfamart would fully support the instruction, but added that the management would first wait for an official letter from the city administration regarding the matter.
'We are in support of reducing plastic waste. Doing so is in the interests of everyone. However, before implementing the [mayor's] instruction, we first need a legal basis, for example a mayoral regulation or a circular from the city administration. We need something official,' Firly said.
Surakarta produces 260 tons of garbage every day, 20 percent of which is plastic, and only 10 percent recyclable.