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Jakarta Post

Indonesia’s latest weapon to cut plastic bag use: devout Muslims

  • Moses Ompusunggu

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Wed, June 6, 2018   /   09:56 am
Indonesia’s latest weapon to cut plastic bag use: devout Muslims Irresponsible: Plastic cups on Kuta Beach. JP/Agung Parameswara. (JP/Agung Parameswara)

Indonesia, one of the planet’s major plastic polluters, is now banking on one of its biggest resources to entice people to take a plastic bag diet: Muslim clerics.

On Tuesday, the government declared a cooperation with clerics from the country’s largest Muslim groups, Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) and Muhammadiyah, to change consumer behavior pertaining to the use of plastic shopping bags.

In the partnership, NU and Muhammadiyah now have a mission to promote the use of reusable bags to cut plastic bag use in Indonesia.

“NU and Muhammadiyah have a large number of followers. The most forceful way is for their clerics to tell the masses in a simple way to change their mind sets,” Rosa Vivien Ratnawati, the Environment and Forestry Ministry’s director general for waste management, told reporters on Tuesday.

Indonesia is desperately trying to end the dependency of its people on plastic shopping bags, having pledged to reduce its waste volume to 30 percent by 2025.

The use of plastic bags in Indonesia has increased over the past 10 years to approximately 9.8 billion plastic bags per year---95 percent of which end up unprocessed, according to the Environment and Forestry Ministry.

NU and Muhammadiyah said in a joint statement that they were committed to “carrying out a plastic bag use reduction movement, which is part of an Islamic culture, by implementing it in numerous activities from childhood to adult level.”

The two organizations, which boast more than 100 million followers combined, said they would also conduct a “reusable bag movement” that would be introduced gradually within their organizations and at their regional branches.

“The declaration shows that the NU does not only care about politics or religion, as many people think,” Fitria Aryani, the waste bank director of the NU’s Disaster Mitigation and Climate Change Agency (LPBI NU), told the media on Tuesday.

Fitria said the declaration followed an NU initiative launched in May, “Ngaji Sampah”, which translates to “sermons on waste”. In the program, broadcast online by NU’s central office in Jakarta once a month, clerics connect waste management with religious norms in their sermons.

“The next session of ngaji sampah, to be held after the Idul Fitri holiday, will discuss the reduction of plastic shopping bags,” said Fitria. (swd)