A. Muh. Ibnu Aqil, Jakarta – Several top food and beverages companies have established a new organization to ramp up their recycling efforts and reduce plastic packaging waste in Indonesia, which the companies commonly produce and usually ends up polluting the sea.
The businesses, which are members of the Packaging and Recycling Association for Indonesia's Sustainable Environment (PRAISE), initiated the Packaging Recovery Organization (PRO) to seek ways to speed up the implementation of the circular economy, from waste collection to recycling.
Among the members are PT Coca-Cola Indonesia, Danone-Aqua, PT Indofood Sukses Makmur, PT Nestle Indonesia, Tetra Pak Indonesia and Unilever Indonesia.
"PRAISE is very proud of launching the PRO [so we can] collaborate on our waste management as a solution to single-use plastics. [With the PRO] we promote extended stakeholder responsibility," PRAISE steering committee head and Coca-Cola Indonesia public affairs and communication head Triyono Prijosoesilo said during the virtual launch in Jakarta on Tuesday.
The new organization would have at least three programs: to build a system to recycle polyethylene terephthalate (PET), which is commonly used in plastic bottles; to increase the collection rate for used beverage cartons, flexibles and high-density polyethylene packaging; and to educate the public on recycling.
PRO aims to achieve a 60 percent recycling rate for PET plastics before moving on to recycling other kinds of packaging next year, all the while expanding its membership, Triyono said.
The organization's objectives fall in line with recommendations laid out in the World Economic Forum's latest National Plastic Action Report on Indonesia, which proposes a System Change Scenario (SCS) that would reduce ocean leakage in the archipelago by 70 percent by 2025.
The SCS model combines five system changes, which include doubling current recycling capacity and plastic waste collection, among other things, according to the WEF report.
PRAISE chief and Danone-Aqua sustainability director Karyanto Wibowo said industries would use PRO as a vehicle to honor their environmental responsibilities, stipulated in Law No. 18/2008 on waste management.
"How can industries take part? One way is through PRO, an organization that will help industries [in many areas], from collection, recycling and education to research on waste management," he said.
Karyanto said PRO would convene players from the packaging industry, manufacturing and retailers, which are responsible for the flow of plastic products from factories to the consumer.
He said the organization would also cooperate with local administrations to increase the recycling rate of plastics. At the moment, it is teaming up with the East Java administration.
According to the WEF report, about 70 percent of Indonesia's plastic waste – estimated at 4.8 million tons per year – is considered mismanaged.
A 2019 report jointly commissioned by environmentalist groups found that plastic waste had made its way into Indonesia's food chain.
It was discovered that eggs produced by free-range chickens in two villages in East Java had been contaminated by the plastic waste that locals used as a fuel source for local tofu factories.
The sampled eggs collected near a tofu factory in Tropodo village, for instance, contained the second-highest level of dioxins in eggs from Asia, second only to eggs collected in an area in Vietnam contaminated by the Agent Orange chemical weapon, the report found.
In many countries in the region, plastic waste is openly dumped or burned on land, deposited in poorly managed dump sites, or leaked into waterways or the ocean.
The Environment and Forestry Ministry's director for waste management, Novrizal Tahar, expressed appreciation for the PRO's swift actions in response to Environment and Forestry Ministerial Regulation No. 75/2019, which stipulates that plastics producers must set up a waste reduction road map.
"The PRO should increase synergy and increase the capacity of the [circular economy] ecosystem. This should be viewed positively," Novrizal said.
He also expressed hope that more companies would start formulating their waste reduction plans.
Coordinating Maritime Affairs and Investment Minister Luhut Panjaitan said that with 8,000 tons of daily waste coming out of Jakarta alone, plastic waste should not be the sole responsibility of the state. As such, private sector initiatives like the PRO should be lauded.
With the PRO planning to implement its pilot projects in East Java and Bali in 2020, Luhut called on regional administrations to support such initiatives.
"They should be preparing the infrastructure to collect plastic waste and incorporating waste banks – there are more than 7,000 waste banks across Indonesia," Luhut said.
Plastics are valued materials with a key role in the economy, and the nation generates around 6.8 million tons of plastic waste per year, a figure that is growing by 5 percent annually.
Despite major commitments from government, industry and civil society, the flow of plastic waste into the country's bodies of water is projected to grow by 30 percent between 2017 and 2025, from 620,000 tons per year to an estimated 780,000 tons per year, according to the NPA report.
The Indonesian government is seeking investments of US$5.1 trillion to finance its plans to reduce the amount of plastic waste entering the ocean to near zero by 2040.
Most of the plastic waste is from major brands, according to an audit conducted by international movement Break Free From Plastic between August and September 2019.
The audit collected 13,309 pieces of plastic waste, although most of them were unrecognized, the top three polluters included Indofood at 654 pieces, Danone at 563 pieces and PT Mayora Indah at 488.