Plastic waste can be a time bomb

Plastic waste can be a time bomb

Illustration. Sanitation officers clean up the rubbish drifting in the coastal areas of Muara Angke, Penjaringan, Jakarta. (ANTARA PHOTO/Aprillio Akbar)

"We have thrown almost 160 million tons of plastic waste into the sea. One day, the Indonesian sea will contain more plastic than fish," Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Minister Susi Pudjiastuti stated.
Jakarta (ANTARA News) - Plastic and Styrofoam products have made life so simple and easy for mankind. Plastic bags, plastic dishes, and plastic packages are among items that can make life trouble-free.

By using plastic wares, housewives and other residents can skip washing dishes. After use, plastic items can just easily be disposed of, especially into the sea, without causing trouble to maintain them. But not many are aware that it could have far-reaching repercussions. It is a time bomb.

After all, Indonesia is rated the second biggest plastic contributor to the sea after China. "We have thrown almost 160 million tons of plastic waste into the sea. One day, the Indonesian sea will contain more plastic than fish," Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Minister Susi Pudjiastuti stated in Mimika on Tuesday, while launching the corporate social responsibility (CSR) program of the United State-based copper and gold mining firm, PT Freeport Indonesia.

According to the minister, the plastic waste issue can become a time bomb for the Indonesian people if the waste disposed in the gullies and waters are not immediately handled.

Several studies have also indicated that if no significant changes are brought about, the ratio of plastic to fish in the oceans is expected to reach three to one by 2025, and the oceans will contain more plastic than fish by 2050.

"We have a problem with plastic. I read in a book that (plastic) basket for crab cultivation can be used for about four years. Well, after four years what can we do with it after it becomes a waste," Pudjiastuti questioned, referring to the crab cultivation program in Timika.

Therefore, after being used for crab cultivation in the community economic development program, the plastic basket should not be discarded into the sea. The minister asked PT Freeport Indonesia to help overcome the plastic waste in the area of Mimika District, Papua Province.

"This is my concern, because after traveling around Merauke, I see many canals filled with used mineral water bottles. I am sure areas around the villages in Mimika will also face the same problem," she stressed.

"Maybe, in addition to this program, PT. Freeport, together with other relevant parties, can also support the environmental hygiene program; of course, plastic waste is not a matter of society," the minister added.

According to Pudjiastuti, in addition to ruining the beauty of the city, plastic waste has caused the emergence of puddles everywhere. "A campaign to reduce the use of plastics is also very important. The waste from this crab farming program must not be thrown into the sea, as it becomes garbage again," she revealed.

The same concern over plastic and Styrofoam wastes has also been expressed by the Indonesian Biodiversity Foundation (KEHATI), as the garbage generated from human activity, in the form of plastic and cork, has increasingly threatened human life and the environment.

In Jakarta, for instance, plastic wastes and Styrofoam have threatened microplastic particles, according to KEHATI Executive Director MS Sembiring.

"It is bad. Garbage that is not transported to the place of dumping and partly flowed into the sea includes mostly Styrofoam and other types of plastics," Sembiring stated in a press release received in Jakarta on Tuesday (March 20).

In addition to threatening human health, microplastic particles, which are mainly derived from plastic wastes and plastic food packaging, are also very dangerous for the survival of flora and fauna.

Quoting Central Bureau of Statistics (BPS) data, Sembiring noted that Jakarta`s garbage production was increasing every year. In 2016, waste production reached 7,099.08 cubic meters, an increase from the previous year, which was at 7.046.39 cubic meters.

Out of all the garbage produced, only 84.7 percent could be transported. The rest is wasted in nature, including dumping into the sea.

"Therefore, the Jakarta Provincial Government must have a special strategy to address this problem to save Jakarta from microplastic wastes," he explained.

KEHATI hoped that the DKI Jakarta Provincial Government could utilize the momentum of two international days to intensively curb plastic waste. The two important international days which are celebrated in 2018, namely Earth Day (April 22) and World Environment Day (June 5), shared the same theme of plastic pollution.

In the meantime, Jakarta Governor Anies Baswedan has warned local residents against throwing trash, particularly plastic waste, into the sea and rivers. "We ask all households and residents to throw trash in its respective places. Do no throw trash anywhere. And do not throw trash, particularly plastic ones, into the rivers," he stressed, while inspecting a pile of trash in the Muara Angke Ecomarine Mangrove Forest in Jakarta, on Monday (March 19).

"Most of the trash here is non-organic. The volume of plastic trash is extraordinary. "In the past few days, more than 50 tons of trash has been collected. Because of (difficult) terrain, the trash cannot be carried by heavy duty equipment, but by ships," he revealed.

In an effort to overcome plastic waste, the government is formulating a presidential regulation on the management of plastic waste at sea. This is a form of the government?s commitment to reduce plastic waste in its maritime areas, according to Aryo Hanggono, expert staff for Marine Ecology and Marine Resources of the Maritime Affairs and Fisheries minister.

"The government will reduce plastic waste by up to 70 percent by 2025," he remarked.

He noted that currently, a draft of the presidential regulation on the management of plastic waste at sea was being formulated to ensure coordination between the central and local governments.