JAKARTA (THE JAKARTA POST/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - While plastic waste has increasingly become a major global concern, Indonesia has been doing little to slow the production of disposable plastic that pollutes the land and the oceans, as confirmed by the Post's special report on Monday (Jan 28).
The world community has given Indonesia that dirty sheen after studies confirmed the serious health and environmental threats from unmanaged plastic waste.
In 2016, a research study led by Jenna Jambeck from the University of Georgia found that Indonesia produces 3.2 million metric tonnes of mismanaged plastic waste every year, of which about 1.29 million metric tonnes end up as marine debris.
The latest study by the Indonesian Institute of Sciences discovered microplastics in salt and fish.
Apparently, non-organic materials that need centuries to decompose have found their way onto our plates.
Asian neighbours like Thailand, Vietnam, the Philippines and even China may also have contributed to that marine debris.
We can only assume that the situation is worsening, given that no significant remedies have been attempted by the big-time suspects, individually or collectively.
The United Nations Environment Programme says only 9 per cent of all plastic waste ever generated has been recycled. Some 12 per cent has gone to incinerators and the bulk ends up in landfills, dumps or in the natural environment.
The world body has warned that unless proper, better-orchestrated measures are taken, the seas would contain more plastic than fish by 2050.
Indonesia still struggles with its draft guidelines to support the government's effort to phase out single-use plastic in 10 years starting at its sources. It already missed its own deadline last year and has yet to come up with a new timeframe.
In fact, Indonesia already has a law on waste management in place, but it was passed in 2008 when plastic pollution was not a popular concern.
Besides, plastic is but one of numerous, equally dangerous pollutants such as oil and untreated industrial chemicals that are dumped into bodies of water.
Indonesia's commitment to slash plastic waste by 70 per cent in the coming eight years as promised by Coordinating Maritime Affairs Minister Luhut Pandjaitan during the 2017 UN Ocean Conference in New York is notable.
As one of the conference vice-presidents, Indonesia would have to answer questions about its progress meeting this pledge.
Drastic measures involving all stakeholders are needed for Indonesia to honour this big commitment.
Industries - from food suppliers and convenience stores to plastic makers - must act to reduce the use of plastics.
The government should offer incentives to recycling industries, phase out certain plastic products and conduct public awareness campaigns.
Civil society initiatives encouraging restaurants, bars and coffeehouses deserve the support of the government and the public alike.
Kudos should also go to progressive local administrations that have introduced by-laws to restrict single-use plastics without awaiting the central government's guidelines, which are to materialise only God knows when.
The Jakarta Post is a member of The Straits Times media partner Asia News Network, an alliance of 23 news media organisations.