Indonesian group backs plastic bans amid judicial review

The Indonesian Plastic Recycling Association has filed with the Supreme Court a judicial review petition against Bali's gubernatorial regulation that bans single-use plastics. PHOTO: AFP

JAKARTA (THE JAKARTA POST/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - A coalition of civil society organisations has challenged a judicial review petition on Bali's ban on single-use plastics, which has been accused of violating other environmental regulations.

Dr Andri Gunawan, an environmental law expert from the University of Indonesia and a member of the coalition, said the group had filed an amicus curiae - a brief filed by someone who is not a party to a case - to challenge the judicial review petition filed by plastics and recycler associations against regional regulations banning single-use plastics.

"Amicus curiae literally means 'friend of the court'. Because we are not directly implicated in these cases, we are offering consideration to the court in support of the regulations," he said at a press conference on Monday (May 6).

The Indonesian Plastic Recycling Association (ADUPI) has filed with the Supreme Court a judicial review petition against Bali's gubernatorial regulation that bans single-use plastics.

A similar regulation banning single-use plastics issued by the mayor of Bogor municipality in West Java has also been challenged by the Indonesian Olefin, Aromatic and Plastic Industry Association (Inaplas).

Both associations have cited that the local regulations are not aligned with Law No. 18/2008 on waste management, arguing that the law does not require the ban of single-use plastics, and also Law No. 39/1999 on human rights, specifically on the right to work.

The coalition, comprising the Indonesian Centre for Environmental Law (ICEL), the Indonesian Environmental Law Guide Association (PPLHI), the Indonesian Centre for the Study of Law and Policy (PSHK), Amnesty International and the Indonesian Plastic Bag Diet Movement (GIDKP), is challenging the petitions, suggesting that they could potentially cause a setback in the country's baby steps towards zero waste.

"We hope the court can see that what the local administrations have been doing is right and do not annul the regulations. We're afraid that their revocation could lead to the cancellation of similar regulations in other regions," Dr Andri said.

Long before Bali and Bogor municipality enacted the ban in late 2018, South Kalimantan's capital of Banjarmasin had pioneered the move by issuing a mayoral regulation in 2016 to bar modern retailers from providing single-use plastic bags to their customers.

Balikpapan in East Kalimantan followed the step by issuing a mayoral regulation in early 2018. At least 12 other local administrations in the country are currently considering a similar ban, including the Jakarta administration.

"Law No. 18/2008 on waste management has provided room for regional leaders to create follow-up regulations. It requires a control of waste piles, and banning is the absolute form of control. These two are not mutually exclusive," Indonesian Centre for Environmental Law researcher Raynaldo Sembiring said.

Indonesian Plastic Bag Diet Movement executive director Tiza Mafira suggested that associations refrain from confusing the public by claiming that recycling could fix all waste problems.

"Around 60 per cent of the plastics produced globally between the 1950s and 2015 have polluted the environment, with only 9 per cent of them recycled. In Indonesia alone, the recycling rate of plastics is between 9 and 11 per cent," Ms Tiza said, citing data from a 2015 report by marine plastic researcher Jenna Jambeck of the University of Georgia.

She further argued that the ban on single-use plastics should go hand in hand with recycling efforts.

"These regulations are banning single-use plastics, which do not have a high value when recycled, such as plastic bags and straws. So they won't harm industry players or scavengers, who do not have any interest in them in the first place," she added.

Separately, Inaplas vice-chairman Budi Susanto Sadiman said there had been innovation in recycling efforts which could result in zero waste.

He said the innovation had helped create new jobs and value-added products, such as plastic asphalt, fuel and fertiliser.

"The job of regional heads is to create a system of waste management. Banning plastics is not a form of management," he told The Jakarta Post.

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