MANILA, Philippines (August 15, 2019)—Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison recently announced that they will stop export of recyclable waste amid rising global plastic pollution concern and pushback from Asian countries who are at the receiving end of the waste trade.
Green groups in and around the region are wary of the pronouncement that can be used as an opening to push for waste-to-energy (WtE) incineration which the Australian government has been silently supporting. They are also pushing the government to take back waste that were already shipped to Asian countries.
Jane Bremmer, Coordinator, Zero Waste Australia (National Toxics Network): “The Prime Minister’s announcement and Council of Australian Governments’ (COAG) support for a ban on waste exports should be cautiously welcomed and is long overdue following the embarrassing revelations of Australian illegal waste dumping in Southeast Asia. However, it seems certain that the announcement is designed to distract from a major government push to burn Australia’s waste in polluting incinerators: an industry it quietly supports. Waste-to-energy incineration has no place in a sustainable zero waste management and circular economy agenda. Burning finite resources in our residual waste stream—predominantly single-use, non-recyclable, fossil fuel-based plastic waste—is not only highly polluting but entrenches a linear economy, the very cause of global climate, pollution and health disasters and is the antithesis of a sustainable circular economy.”
Contact: Jane Bremmer, +610 3262387; email@example.com
Enzo Favoino, Scientific Coordinator, Zero Waste Europe: “While we welcome Australia’s move to ban waste export, we are strongly against any plans by the federal government to use this to justify waste-to-energy incineration in the hope that it will power Australian homes. Burning plastics is one of the largest contributors to climate change, and energetic efficiencies of incinerators are appallingly low, let alone where heat finds little or no use. In Europe, a climate correction factor had to be adopted to artificially change calculation of energy efficiency and falsely show higher energy efficiency where heat is to no use, as it would be the case in most situations in Australia. However, Europe has disincentivized support to new incineration projects in the last few years, since reliance on incineration may be counterproductive for the ambitious recycling and reuse targets as defined in the Circular Economy Package. Most recently, a study in Nordic countries is showing that these countries are not on track to meet EU’s recycling target because of heavy reliance on incineration. Australia should learn from the mistakes of Europe and not invest in incineration. Reusing and recycling saves remarkably more energy than what may be retrieved through incineration, and given the remarkably low energetic efficiency of incinerators, waste of energy is a more appropriate term to use than waste to energy.”
Contact: Enzo Favoino, +39 335 355446; firstname.lastname@example.org
Beau Baconguis, Plastics Campaigner of the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA) Asia Pacific and Break Free From Plastic Asia Pacific coordinator: “There is a clear link between waste dumping by the Global North and the promotion of false solutions such as incineration to the waste problem in developing countries. Asia is now standing up against this injustice. Moreover, communities in our region, as well as in the global north, have demonstrated that the solution to the plastic waste problem is Zero Waste and that involves plastic waste reduction, alternative delivery systems, and ecological waste management programs. Governments need to listen more to its people rather than the profit-driven corporations peddling non-solutions.”
Contact: Beau Baconguis, +63 917 8715257, email@example.com
Yuyun Ismawati, Alliance for Zero Waste Indonesia (AZWI) and co-founder & Senior Advisor of BaliFokus/Nexus3 Foundation: “We call for the Consulate General of Australia in Surabaya to apologize for saying that the Indonesian government approved Australia’s sending of nasty scrap. Our government never approved such importation. We also ask the Australian ports to improve and strengthen their monitoring and the work of the surveyors who confirm the impurities and content of “recyclables” inside containers that are sent out of Australia. Finally, we call on the exporting and importing companies to clean the messy dumpsites they have created in Indonesia and the rest of Asia. We also call for the Australian government to collaborate with the Indonesian government to use safe technology to treat historical plastic waste in dumpsites and avoid incineration.”
Contact: Yuyun Ismawati, +447583768707, firstname.lastname@example.org
Mageswari Sangaralingam, Consumers Association of Penang (Malaysia): “The Malaysian government announced in May that it will send back Australian plastic waste because it was too contaminated to recycle or had been falsely labelled and smuggled in. Now that the Australian PM made pronouncement to stop waste export, the Australian government must take back waste that has already been shipped to Malaysia. We want the Australian government to clearly state their plans and timelines in cleaning up their mess (waste take back) and in stopping waste export. Further, in the future we want assurances that wastes are not relabelled and exported as commodities or fuel.”
Contact: Mageswari Sangaralingam, +60128782706, email@example.com
Jed Alegado, Communications Officer, Break Free From Plastic, firstname.lastname@example.org | +63 917-6070248
Sherma Benosa, Communications Officer, GAIA Asia Pacific, email@example.com | +63 917-8157570
Sonia Astudillo, Communications Officer, GAIA Asia Pacific, firstname.lastname@example.org | +63 917-5969286
Alliance for Zero Waste Indonesia (AZWI) is an alliance of organizations and concerned individuals, campaigning to promote a correct term of the Zero Waste approach to enforce the existing activities, programs and initiatives that have already implemented in many Indonesian cities considering waste management hierarchy concept, material life cycle, and circular economy. https://www.aliansizerowaste.id/
Nexus3 Foundation (formerly known as BaliFokus) is a non-governmental organization working to improve community’s capacity, quality of life and advocating a toxics-free environment together with all stakeholders in sustainable way. https://www.balifokus.asia/
Consumers Association of Penang (CAP) focuses on sustainable and ethical consumption and challenges current aggressive advertising industry that is unfettered and shapes people’s consumption to lifestyles and behavior that is unsustainable, unethical, and inequitable. https://consumer.org.my/
Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA) is a worldwide alliance of more than 800 grassroots groups, non-governmental organizations, and individuals in over 90 countries whose ultimate vision is a just, toxic-free world without incineration. www.no-burn.org
National Toxics Network is a community-based network working to ensure a toxic-free future for all. It is a national network giving a voice to community and environmental organizations across Australia, New Zealand, and the South Pacific. https://ntn.org.au/
Zero Waste Europe is a fast-growing movement of communities, local leaders, businesses, experts, influencers, and other “change agents” working towards the vision of eliminating waste in our society. https://zerowasteeurope.eu/
12th August 2019
The Prime Minister’s announcement and COAG support for a ban on waste exports should be cautiously welcomed and is long overdue following the embarrassing revelations of Australian illegal waste dumping in South East Asia. However, it seems certain that the announcement is designed to distract from a major government push to burn Australia’s waste in polluting incinerators: an industry it quietly supports. As noted by some media reports on the announcement, the government “was exploring using waste in energy plants to power Australian homes.”
The National Toxics Network, through their lead campaign group, ‘Zero Waste Australia’ welcomes the Prime Minister’s support for an Australian recycling industry and a great leap forward towards a Circular Economy, where finite resources are reused, composted or recycled back into our materials production systems.
“The Prime Minister and COAG however must put the protection of our climate, health and environment ahead of global corporate industrial interests within the waste management sector that are driving dangerous waste to energy incinerators into Australia.
Waste to energy incineration has no place in a sustainable zero waste management and circular economy agenda. Burning finite resources in our residual waste stream – predominantly single use, non- recyclable, fossil fuel-based plastic waste – is not only highly polluting but entrenches a linear economy, the very cause of global climate, pollution and health disasters and is the antithesis of a sustainable circular economy.
Yet Australian state governments are fast tracking approvals for this industrial threat without adequate climate, health and environmental impact assessment processes, without any social licence to operate and without safeguards for vulnerable local governments.
It is a scandal that the waste to energy incineration sector is being allowed to take scarce renewable energy funds and grants from the Clean Energy Finance Corporation and the Australian Renewable Energy Agency for an industry more toxic and climate polluting per unit of energy than coal, oil and gas. Australia is at risk of becoming the waste burning capital of the global south as this industry looks for new markets in vulnerable countries while the European Union and United States remove subsidies and support for waste to energy incinerators due to the adverse impact it has on the recycling sector and policies for a circular economy.
The announcement by the Prime Minister and COAG must be treated with scepticism unless they strengthen their mandate with a ban on the incineration of waste in Australia and the export of all types of Processed Engineered Fuel, and other ‘stealthy’ waste classifications to other countries, to bring Australia into line with international best practice waste management policy from comparable countries.” states Jane Bremmer, Coordinator Zero Waste Australia.
For more information – Jane Bremmer 0432 041 397, Jo Immig – 02 66871 527
July 31, 2019, at 11:00am ExxonMobil Olefins Plant, a petrochemical facility located in Baytown, Texas next to ExxonMobil refinery experienced an explosion at 11:00 am. A polypropylene unit erupted in flames from causes yet to be known.
Polypropylene is a plastic feedstock derived from the processing of natural gas. Natural gas goes through “gas separation” to create feedstocks (ethane, propane, butanes, field condensates). From here the feedstocks are sent to a steam cracker unit and processed into polypropylene and other petrochemicals.
– American Chemistry Council
According to EPA polypropylene is commonly used to make reusable food containers and beverage bottle caps. A precautionary shelter-in-place order was issued after ExxonMobil requested one for communities west of the plant at 11:47am. Goose Creek Independent School District stated that the GC Service Center, Robert E. Lee High School, Peter E Hyland, IMPACT ECHS, San Jacinto Elementary, Travis Elementary, and Baytown Junior were all included in the shelter-in-place.
Baytown, Texas | Image: KHOU article: How to shelter in place, people who live near Exxon plant in Baytown are being asked to shelter in place. (July 31, 2019)
The health impacts reported from exposure from the vapors were dizziness or asphyxiation without warning.
Unfortunately, fires like Exxon’s happen too frequently in Houston Ship Channel communities. In fact, Exxon had another large fire just in March of this year big enough for Harris County to sue them over their unauthorized emissions. Soon after, there were major fires at ITC Deer Park and KMCO – both are known repeat violators of environmental laws. There are dozens of facilities along the Channel and in the Houston area that burden communities and perpetuate environmental health injustices. Despite this fact, the TCEQ doesn’t consider cumulative impacts when it permits these facilities.
Our communities need a strong national chemical security policy and for the Trump administration to stop trying to roll back the existing Chemical Disaster Rule. Instead, we need for our environmental regulators to close dangerous loopholes that allow more harmful pollution in our communities. But even now, the Trump administration is trying to allow Texas to keep a loophole that lets polluters, like Exxon, evade financial penalties when they say they have malfunctions.
Although air monitoring results have not been released the documented effects of exposure to these substances has a variety of information gaps including a lack of information registering from air monitors in the affected area and insufficient federally approved EPA monitors. All of these are repeated concerns that were raised during the ITC disaster when local news stations revealed the abundance of ozone monitors and lack of Air Toxics and VOC monitoring. A lack of information may be strengthened by existing exemptions such as the January 2019 Polymer Exemption under (TSCA) Toxic Substance Control Act, reducing industries “reporting burden”.
EPA UPDATE on fire August 1, 2019 – EPA is working with the Texas Commission of Environmental Quality (TCEQ) and Harris County to respond to a fire/explosion that occurred at the ExxonMobil Baytown Olefins Plant on July 31. EPA has deployed emergency response personnel and rapid assessment assets, including the ASPECT aircraft, to assist with the response. The fire was extinguished at 9:00 pm, (corrected by ExxonMobil to 9:30) but ExxonMobil will continue to apply water to the tower for vapor suppression and to prevent re-ignition. Air monitoring conducted along the perimeter and in adjacent community areas has not detected any contaminants of concern. EPA will continue to closely monitor the situation and provide additional response assistance as needed.
ExxonMobil Plastics Production Ramping Up
ExxonMobil is only one of many petrochemical facilities heavily investing in plastics production. Early this year the gas and oil giant revealed their $20 billion dollar Grow the Gulf Initiative. From 2013-2011 more than a dozen major chemical, refining, lubricants and liquified natural gas projects. According to the American Chemistry Council, U.S. chemical exports are expected to increase on average 7% through 2023. ExxonMobil is investing more than $20 Billion over 10 years to build and expand 11 manufacturing facilities.
ExxonMobil commenced operation at its 1.5-million-ton ethane steam cracker at the company’s Baytown Olefins plant in 2018. The new cracker, part of the ExxonMobil’s multi-billion-dollar Baytown chemical expansion project.
History of Non-compliance
The EPAs Enforcement and Compliance History Online has confirmed the following violations and is not a comprehensive list. In 5 years the states fledged two administrative formal actions against ExxonMobil Olefins. In 2017 the EPA raised a judicial action against the facility. The facility has numerous violations over air, water and hazardous waste.
March 4, 2016 – The first compliance investigation was filed by the state on with a total of $7,975 in penalties.
October 8, 2017 – The second action was filed on with a total of $11,625 in penalties.
June 6, 2018 – Baytown’s ExxonMobil Olefins Plant had 3 formal enforcement actions in the past 5 years with only one ending in a formal lawsuit brought on by EPA for violation of the Clean Air Act. Failure to properly monitor industrial flares at their petrochemical facilities (over 8 facilities), Exxon was required to spend $300 million to install and operate air pollution control and monitoring technology to reduce air pollution from 26 industrial flares. The federal penalty was set at $2,030,00, state penalty was set at $470,000.
March 16, 2019 – Fire erupted at the refinery, Harris County confirmed that toxic pollutants for eight days and were being sued for
violating the Clean Air Act. This was the day before the historical Intercontinental Terminals (ITC) Fire and KMCO Chemical Plant
Timeline of events
July 31, 2019
(11:00 am)- @CityofBaytown, the cities official twitter, alerts community members of a “fire” at ExxonMobil but no shelter-in-place at the
(11:11 am)- CAER releases information to community about fire occurring inside ExxonMobil.
(11:26 am) – @CityofBaytown notifies public that Exxon (@ExxonMobilBTA) has asked that a shelter-in-place be issued west of its plant and
south of 330 out of abundance of caution and that the fire contained polypropylene material.
(11:47 am) – @CityofBaytown issues precautionary shelter-in-place due to an emergency at ExxonMobil only for area west of ExxonMobil.
(1:04 pm) -ExxonMobil workers return to the facility, as the fire continues. They are seen entering without any personal protective equipment.
(1:39 pm) – @ExxonMobilBTA reveals that 6 people received medical attention and that air monitoring on the site and the fenceline was being
conducted by ExxonMobil’s Industrial Hygiene staff
(2:00 pm) – ExxonMobil holds press conference at Baytown Police Department. No official written statement on ExxonMobil’s Press Release
(3:00pm) – City of Baytown lifts Shelter-in-Place. Harris County states the Baytown Emergency Operations Center ordered and lifted the
shelter in place as a precaution.
(3:07pm) – reports reveal that 37 people were taken to an off-site clinic due to minor first-degree burns.
(3:20 pm) Harris County Public health announces the temporary closure of WIC Center in Baytown due to fire and cancels all appointments
for the day.
(4:13 pm) – City of Baytown issues an All-Clear for Shelter-in-Place and asks for residents with questions to call the hotline (281-666-8038)
(8:28 pm) – @ExxonMobil states the media reports of 66 injured are inaccurate, 66 employees and contractors were examined at an
occupational health clinic and released.
ReadyHarris the county alert system discloses that ExxonMobil reported that 66 employees/contractors went to the Houston Area
Safety Council for medical evaluation. Air monitoring by Harris County did not detect any levels of concern at the plant or
August 1, 2019
(1:03pm) – ExxonMobil Olefins Plant sets up a claims form for residents affected at (800-241-9010)
What does Shelter-In-Place mean?
Go inside immediately. Close and secure all doors and windows securely with a plastic tarp between 4-6mil in thickness and secure with duct tape. Turn off all ventilation systems (air conditioning, heating). Listen to the radio or television and in this instance. It is important to consider the temperature conditions. Official SIP is declared by county and local officials. (Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services is not a government entity)
July 31, 2019 Baytown, Texas – Workers entering ExxonMobil Baytown Olefins Plant after Evacuation/Photo courtesy of Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services
Plastic and Health: The Hidden Cost of a Plastic Planet
Fueling Plastics: Series Examines deep linkages between fossil fuels and plastics industries, and the products they produce
Plastic and Climate: The Hidden Cost of a Plastic Planet
ExxonMobil Grow the Gulf Initiative
Jakarta, 21st of July 2019. The current condition of waste in Indonesia is very tense. Of the 60 million tons of waste produced, 15 percent is plastic waste which not only floods the landfill, but also the ocean of Indonesia. Based on World Bank data in 2018, 87 coastal cities in Indonesia contribute 2 million tons of plastic waste into the ocean.
The amount and magnitude of the threat from plastic waste is illustrated through a monster figure, a great power that is ready to destroy the earth. The figure of a plastic monster in the form of a 4-meter sea creature emerged from the Jakarta sea and moved towards the heart of the capital city of Jakarta at the Hotel Indonesia roundabout (Bundaran HI).
The plastic monster march was the largest action on refusing single-use plastics in Indonesia, a joint movement of 48 civil society organisations in collaboration with the Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, followed by more than 1500 people. The march moved from the Hotel Indonesia roundabout (Bundaran HI) to the Taman Aspirasi Monas. The march would be chaired directly by Ms. Susi Pudjiastuti as the Minister of Maritime Affairs & Fisheries of the Republic of Indonesia and the Advisor of Pandu Laut Nusantara.
The march aimed to invite public to declare the commitments they will carry out in their daily lives, such as refusing the use of single-use plastics, refusing plastic straws, choosing bulk rather than sachets, sorting out garbage at home, and cleaning up recyclable plastic waste before throwing them away.
The 49 civil society organisations in the march also aimed to unite the voices of the people in urging three things.
Firstly, Government to ban single-use plastics (namely plastic bags, plastic straws, Styrofoam, sachet and microbeads) to be applicable nationally.
Secondly, Government to improve waste management system such as (a) enforcing waste separation system from the source to end process, (b) supporting production of local packaging which are pro-environment, pro-local wisdom, and plastic-free.
Thirdly, Producers and corporations to be responsible of their waste by (a) taking back their packaging waste that they produce, (b) innovating in redesigning plastic packaging to be reusable and recyclable, (c) innovating in product delivery system so not being dependable on single-use plastics anymore.
“Environmental pollution, especially water pollution by plastic waste, is very worrying. Indonesia has had the title of the second largest waste contributor in the world, a very embarrassing predicate. To overcome this, President Joko Widodo has even issued Presidential Regulation No. 83 of 2018 on Marine Waste Management, this plastic waste is very dangerous because it will only degrade in tens or even hundreds of years. If Indonesians do not make efforts to reduce the consumption of single-use plastics, it is predicted that in 2030 there will be more plastic than fish in Indonesian waters. It’s time to switch from plastic bags to ganepo or cloth bags, stop using plastic straws or switch to using stainless straws or paper, and avoid using other plastic packaging. Let’s go towards a better Indonesia by reducing the use of single-use plastic, starting from ourselves.” – Susi Pudjiastuti, the Minister of Maritime Affairs & Fisheries of the Republic of Indonesia.
“Plastic Monster is a figure born of millions of tons of accumulated plastic waste in the Indonesian ocean due to irresponsible hands. This figure is a frightening spectre for the survival of nature and humanity on Earth. The threat of Plastic Monster is a real threat that we are currently facing, Changing Indonesians’ behaviour to stop using single-use plastics is the main key to reduce the volume of waste in Indonesia. There is no other word than stopping single-use plastics.” – Bustar Maitar, Advisor of the Econusa Foundation.
“People need to be made aware that our daily lifestyle that produces a lot of garbage is actually building a terrifying giant monster that will ruin our own lives. This plastic monster is a common enemy that threatens our lives together, that’s why we also have to defeat them together. Each of us has their own weapons to defeat it, if the government is a weapon of policy, we as a weapon are changing lifestyles that do not use single-use plastics.” – Prita Laura, Chairperson of the Pandu Laut Nusantara.
“Single-use plastics are extra-evil monsters. Although it only accounts for less than 10% of national plastic production, single-use plastics contribute to the majority of pollution in the sea. Ironically plastic is a strong material that lasts hundreds of years, but is actually designed to be used for only 30 minutes and then discarded. This doesn’t make sense, and this should be ended.” – Tiza Mafira, Founder of the Gerakan Diet Kantong Plastik.
“In the Greenpeace report titled Sebuah Krisis Kenyamanan (A Comfort Crisis) launched last year, the business of fast-moving consumer goods, including food products, grew by 1-6 percent per year. This means that the volume of plastic packaging waste will continue to grow. Given the very low recycling rate, then there must be concrete action from producers and the government to control the supply of single-use plastics by implementing a circular economy specifically through the concept of reuse.” – Atha, Greenpeace Indonesia Campaigner.
“When collecting garbage in the waters of the Jakarta bay, Divers Clean Action found that 63% of non-organic waste is single-use plastics. Waste of shampoo, food, drinks, medicine packs, from decades ago are still often found in good condition in the ocean. When the production of this waste continues to increase and is not recycled, it is very likely that these single-use plastics into the ocean and end up being microplastics. In Bali we found 1 microplastic particle in 300 to 3000 litres of seawater and a pile of single-use plastic packaging on the coast reaching 30.50% to 74.89% of the total waste found, the high amount of plastic waste in Bali has the potential to damage Indonesian marine tourism.” – Swietenia Founder & Executive Director Divers Clean Action.
While specifically for the condition of Jakarta, “The state of Jakarta’s garbage-emergency is caused by the absence of enforcement on waste rules and policies both in national and local levels. More than 10 years ago, namely since the issuance of Law Number 18 of 2008 acknowledged that waste management was not in accordance with the methods and techniques of environmentally-friendly waste management which caused negative impacts on public health and the environment. Furthermore, even though nationally we have Government Regulation No. 81 of 2012 which requires producers to use production raw materials that can be reused and to take back waste from products and product packaging for reuse, also not yet running or implemented because the Ministry of Environment and Forestry has not issued a technical policy in accordance with the Government Regulation’s order. The same situation also occurs in Jakarta, where the Local Government is not maximally implementing Perda Number 3 of 2013 concerning Waste Management.” – Tubagus Soleh Ahmadi, WALHI Jakarta.
“Before it’s too late we have to determine whether or not we want to be part of the problem or part of the solution. Through the involvement of Indorelawan in the movement of plastic monsters we want to be able to accommodate the voices of those who want to be part of the solution. Let’s make a change together.” – Maritta Rastuti, Executive Director of Indorelawan.
Download press release here.
Download participant list here.
Jakarta, 17th of July 2019. On Thursday, 23rd of May 2019, the Supreme Court through the Court Decision Number 29 P/HUM/2019 decided to reject the judicial review from the Indonesian Plastic Recycling Association (ADUPI), CV Cahya Jaya, and PT Hartono Sinar Cemerlang Plasindo. The Supreme Court ruled that Bali Governor Regulation No. 97 of 2018 concerning Single-Use Plastics Ban is in accordance with higher regulations.
“The effort to avoid single-use plastics is a concrete step in reducing plastic waste according to Waste Management Act Number 18 of 2008, which is done by prohibiting, and/or limiting its production, distribution, sales, and/or use,” said Tiza Mafira, Executive Director of Gerakan Indonesia Diet Kantong Plastik.
This is in accordance with the principle of decentralisation in accordance with Local Government Act Number 23 of 2014 where the local government has the authority to make regional policies to regulate its own government affairs.
“Based on Government Regulation No. 81 of 2012 concerning Household Waste Management, provincial policies and strategies in waste management are stipulated by a Governor Regulation. This is an opportunity for other governors who have strong commitments like Bali to issue the same regulation. Hopefully the national government will also be exploring a similar opportunity,” explained Henri Subagiyo, Executive Director of the Indonesian Center for Environmental Law (ICEL).
“This decision provides significant legal support for efforts to reduce plastic waste in Indonesia,” said Andri Gunawan Wibisana, Environmental Law Lecturer at the Faculty of Law, University of Indonesia.
Based on various kinds of considerations, it is evident that the plastic bags, plastic straws, and Styrofoam ban is not contradictory with the Waste Management Act, Legal Drafting Act, Human Rights Act, and the Governmental Administration Act.
“We appreciate the judges for applying human rights law appropriately, including inserting our opinions into the ruling. Hopefully it will be a positive precedent for the realisation of a healthy environment,” said Executive Director of Amnesty International Indonesia, Usman Hamid.
In a press release distributed by the Bali Provincial Government, it was stated that with this Supreme Court Decision, all parties must comply with and implement the contents of the Governor of Bali Province Regulation No. 97 of 2018 to maintain the sanctity and harmony of Bali’s nature and its contents in accordance with the Vision of “Nangun Sat Kerthi Loka Bali” through the Development Pattern of Planned Universe towards the New Era of Bali.
The Bali Provincial Government and Krama Bali also gave their highest appreciation and gratitude to all parties who have shown a commitment to the preservation of the natural environment. In the press release, the Bali Provincial Government also stated that other local governments throughout Indonesia need not hesitate nor fear to make policy regulations to realise a clean, green and beautiful Indonesian nature.
This court decision is certainly a good precedent for other local governments that are dealing with the plastic pollution problem and plan to issue single-use plastics ban.
Download press release here.
Jakarta, June 25th, 2019 – In 2015, scientists reported Indonesia as second highest contributors of global plastic polluter into the ocean. Considering China’s strict policy and other ASEAN country’s strong position in global plastic waste trade crisis, environmental activists are warning Presiden Joko Widodo on Indonesia’s absence for response and not to let Indonesia replace China’s rank as the first ocean plastic polluters at the end of the year.
World Bank Report reveals marine debris in Indonesia’s waterways consists of 21% of disposable diaper, 16% of single-use plastic, 5% of sachet, 4% of glass and metal, 1% of plastic bottles, 9% of other plastic and 44% of organic waste. Report of the brand audit conducted by Greenpeace Indonesia in mid-September 2018 in three locations in Indonesia, found the packaging of products from Santos, P & G and Wings as the most from beach cleaning activities in Tangerang; Danone, Dettol, Unilever in Bali; and Indofood, Unilever, and Wings products in Yogyakarta.
During the period of 1988-2016, China absorbed around 45.1% of the world’s plastic waste. But since March 2018, the Chinese Government has implemented a strict policy on plastic waste import known as the “National Sword” Policy. Hence, this policy makes global waste trade, especially plastic waste, shocked.
Even though ASEAN countries are known as recyclers of plastic waste (approximately 3% of scrap global plastics waste) and exported 5% of plastic waste to global markets, the load-cycle of recycling and waste management become a burden for these countries because of strict import regulations by China.
“There are two kinds of plastic waste and shredded produced by paper mills that we found in Gresik; the first is plastic mixed with paper that cannot be recycled, used for tofu production fuels or other fuels. The second type is plastic waste with various forms, in the form of bottles, sachets, food packaging, body care products, and household products,” said Prigi Arisandi, Executive Director of Ecoton. “The companies we monitor are almost all abusing import permits and polluting the environment by moving problems to ordinary people,” Prigi added.
Several ASEAN countries have responded to the changes in global plastic waste trade with restrictions on imports. In July 2018, the Malaysian government revoked import licenses of 114 companies and has targeted import bans in 2021. Thailand also targets import bans due to a drastic increase in imports of their plastic waste from the United States by 2000% (91,500 tons) in 2018. Vietnam is no longer issued new licenses for the import of waste, shredded, and / or plastic scrap, paper and metal.
“In principle, import of waste are prohibited in the Law. However, there are complex definitions in assessing whether a commodity is waste or not; and if it is a waste, then excluded from the import ban or not. This is what happened like in Gresik,” said Margaretha Quina, Head of the Pollution Control Division of ICEL. “The complexity of this definition must be addressed, because the consequences are different: illegal or legal, obedient or disobedient.” For the findings by Ecoton in Gresik, according to Quina, can be categorized as administration disobedience to crime case. “As weak as it is, it can be subject to the obligation of re-importation if contaminated with hazardous waste, and the import approval can be revoked if the issuance is based on incorrect data submission. As hard as it is, importers are convicted of the offense of entering waste into Indonesia Waste Law, against the law can be fulfilled because of the fact that goods imported are in the form of waste, contrary to their permission.”
Indonesia imported about 124,000 tons of plastic waste (recognized as plastic scrap) in 2013. This number has more than doubled, around 283,000 tons, in 2018. This transaction volume is the highest point of Indonesian imports over the past 10 years based on BPS data and UN Comtrade.
BPS data shows an increase in imports of 141% but the export rate decreased by 48% (around 98,500 tons). This figure indicates that there are around 184,700 tons of plastic waste still in Indonesia, whose fate is unknown – whether all recycled into pellets or become new products – beyond the burden of the generation of domestic plastic waste around 9 million tons.
“Next year China extends its list of post-consumer products, Thailand also targets to close the doors to import plastic and electronic waste. Meanwhile, Malaysia tightened import controls and the Philippine President politically loudly declared war on imported waste. The sad thing is that Indonesia has no firm attitude and seems to defend the industry without regulation and clear law enforcement, “said Yuyun Ismawati, Senior Advisor of Bali Focus / Nexus3. “Some additives used in all types of plastic are recognized as chemicals that are carcinogenic and are prohibited in developed countries. Recycling plastic containing Hazardous and toxic materials into other products means poisoning circular economy.”
“Importing companies must be responsible for dealing with the inherited pollution from these waste collection, transfer and donation activities. The disadvantage of the uncontrolled import of waste that is more profitable for the corporation is the pollution of the environment and the quality of public health,” said Nur Hidayati from WALHI. “Many national and regional programs related to plastic and ocean waste have been or are being made, coordinated and followed by Indonesia, but their implementation is not clear in the national development program. The President must make sure all his staff are working earnestly.”
In some areas, Chinese entrepreneurs have become investors or partnered with local people to set up household scale plastic recycling businesses whose permits are questionable.
In various places in Jabodetabek and East Java, AZWI activists also found lands contaminated with various sized remnants of plastic either burned or not, polluting land, agricultural land, and water bodies. Cleaning toxins from plastic pollution is not easy, not cheap and requires serious government intentions.
Micro plastic and plastic fibers are also found in fish in Indonesia, in bottled water and in salt. The state’s obligation is to guarantee the right of citizens to live in a safe and healthy environment.