An expert say Indonesia is yet to have a waste management blueprint. Waste power plant is seen as short and middle term solution to stop waste from contaminating the environment.
WASTE problem is complex. We can’t just name one measure as a whole solution. It is also a serious problem. Not only in Jakarta, but all over Indonesia. Waste Power Plants (PLTSa) such as those in Jakarta are part of the solution in the downstream sector. In the 3R (reduce, reuse, recycle) hierarchy, reduce is the main principle. While PLTSa falls under recycle. And if waste is like a faucet leak, wiping it won’t do the trick. We need to turn off the tap.
There’s notable awareness of waste problem and the solution among our society. As many as 90% of the people who have access to the internet are aware of the 3R (reuse, reduce, recycle), but only 70% are willing to do it, and only 40% have done it. Out of 2 respondents we surveyed, only one sort their waste from home. And only 1 in 3 turn waste into compost in their home.
Perhaps the reason behind this, is the assumption that even if we sort waste, the waste collector will just mix them up again because our waste disposal method is open dumping. My other suspicion; the processing industry is also not ready. Perhaps they are, in Java. But even so, the recycling industry is focused on plastic water bottle when in fact, our waste mostly consists of food waste.
Outside of Java, it is not that they refuse to recycle waste, but simply because there are no facilities. An NGO in East Nusa Tenggara has to send 4-6 tons of plastic waste every month to Surabaya, the capital city of East Java, for recycling. Even more difficult in smaller islands where there is no waste management, let alone recycling facility.
For context, the distance from central East Nusa Tenggara to Surabaya in East Java is about 1.426 kilometers away, or a 40-hour drive on the Sumbawa -Bima highway.
The problem is, 60% of plastic waste have low economic value because they are single use, which are even worthless after recycling. Not to mention the recycling machine quality which cannot transform 100% of the waste, only 70-80%, the rest is turned to heat. This means, from 1 kilogram of plastic waste, only 800 grams can be recycled into a plastic bottle. During combustion, the smoke released contains dioxins and furan, harmful chemicals that can alter human genetics.
For short to mid-term investments, PLTSa is relatively good. Like Bantargebang, 50% of the waste is old and the rest is new. In 25 years, it is still good to be able to generate electricity. This is in line with the Presidential Regulation number 83/2018. There are five strategies for dealing with waste: a change in mindset, handling waste from land, handling waste from the ocean, institutions, and research and development strategies.
For the short term, we can implement the second and third strategies, handling waste from land and ocean. PLTSa becomes one of the solutions to prevent waste from leaking into the environment. For the medium term, the strategy is to improve institutions, as linkages between institutions are also vital.
Plastic is a source of tax and foreign exchange for the country. The Ministry of Industry and the Ministry of Trade want to increase plastic production. This is in contradiction with efforts to reduce waste upstream. This is indeed an institutional mess in waste management. Then one long term solution is to improve the government’s mindset regarding waste.
A major hurdle: the Presidential Regulation number 83/2018 hasn’t provided a blueprint for waste management. The government wants to reduce plastic waste in the ocean by 70% by 2025, but the industry is negotiating for 2030. This is a major misalignment between the government and industry. Let’s not forget local governments. Following the autonomy, waste is now managed by the local government. For many districts, the people’s basic needs come first, before waste management.
Out of 519 districts and cities, less than 10% of the local governments have budget allocations for environmental management, including waste management which is at 2.5%.
There is still a long way to go in solving the waste problem.
This opinion piece is based on an interview with Reza Cordova, waste researcher from the National Research and Innovation Agency (BRIN) and is part of a series of report on waste that was published by Forest Digest for its April-June 2022 edition. The report is supported by Internews’ Earth Journalism Network.