Tuesday, 28 June 2016

Paid Plastic Policy Is Ineffective To Combat Plastic Consumption

Since 21 February 2016, coincidentally with National Trash Day (Hari Sampah Nasional), the government implemented a new policy. Through the Surat Edaran or SE (Form Letter) SE-06 / PSLB3-PS / 2015 about Paid Plastic Policy as an Anticipation Measure on Modern Retails from the Ministry of Environment and Forestry (KLHK), the government officially implemented Paid Plastic Policy throughout Indonesia’s modern markets. The SE was actually signed on 17th December 2015 although only enacted in 2016. With this policy, the government decided to oblige consumers who shop in the modern retail market to pay at least Rp 200, - to get a plastic bag. This policy is applied to reduce the number of plastic consumption in Indonesia. According to a research by sciencemag, Indonesia is one country with the largest number of plastic consumption, which reached as much as 187.2 million tonnes, putting them in the 2nd position globally, after China which reached 262.9 million tons[1]. Of course this is also due to the high population figures, which numbered 255,461,700 based on a data from the Central Statistics Agency (BPS), dated July 1, 2015[2]. There is a correlation between these two things. Large population accompanied by a big consumptive behavior yet low environmental awareness are a strong factor that influenced plastic usage. Although the government implemented Paid Plastic Policy as a measure to reduce the consumption of plastics, it does not actually help much. Instead, it could also create some drawbacks. There are three main reasons why the Paid Plastic Policy is ineffective.
First, Paid Plastic Policy puts emphasis on the costumer, which is a wrong target. The use of plastic at the level of producer and distributor is actually higher than at the costumer’s. It is noted that plastic consumption of domestic industry reaches 3.6 million tonnes annually, and it goes up to 4.3 million tonnes with imported plastic included. In addition, Paid Plastic Policy violates Indonesian Government Regulation (PP) Number 47 of 2012 Concerning Environmental and Social Responsibility of Companies which asserts that social and environmental responsibilities are to be held by producers, not consumers.
Second, Regulation on the policy itself is still unclear. Until today (19/5), there are no rules to regulate the circulation of money made from the sales of plastic bag. According to Deputy Assistant of Waste Management Ministry of Environment and Forestry, Sudirman, since the SE issuance until May, there is no regulation that regulates the flow of funds from the sale of paid plastic bags[3]. On top of that, some local governments have also made some contradictory rules. For examples the mayor of Balikpapan issued his own SE. In his SE (Number: 005/0123/BLH concerning Reducing Plastic Bag Usage and Paid Plastic Bag in Balikpapan) it is mentioned that the government allows retailers to raise the price of paid plastic bags to Rp 1.500. This is a deviation from the SE from the ministry of environment and forestry which is the reference of the SE from the Mayor of Balikpapan itself. The mayor’s SE could also result in plastic bags being commodified, which is in contradiction with the purpose of the policy: combating plastic consumption.
Lastly, Paid Plastic Policy is an overstep because Indonesia still does not have an effective recycle system. Data from the ministry of environment and forestry shows that there is only 5% of waste got recycled[4], which is a very small amount. There are actually several attempts by the government to build a waste-based power plant. The first plan was made in 2012 by a subsidiary of PT Pertamina, but the plan was not even started until now. Earlier this year there was an ambitious plan by PT PLN to build waste-based power plants in seven cities, but there was no progress at all.
All of those reasons proves that Paid Plastic Policy is ineffective in the fight against plastic usage. Not only that, the policy is also unconstitutional because it goes against the law to burden its own constituents. Rather than putting a price on plastic bags, the government should instead go after big players and greatly optimize their waste management first before targeting consumers. It is their responsibility as our representative on a state level to deal with big corporations that use plastic in a very huge amount annually.

[1] http://science.sciencemag.org/content/347/6223/768 (Accessed on May 8, 2016, at 12.46 WIB).
[2] http://www.bps.go.id/linkTabelStatis/view/id/1274 (Accessed on May 8, 2016, at 13.28 WIB).
[3] Based on excerpts taken from the record of a public discussion in Universitas Indonesia held by BEM UI.