Nusa Dua, Bali. Indonesia has pledged up to $1 billion annually to clean up its seas from plastic debris and other waste over the next eight years.
"At the end of 2025 we will have gotten rid of 70 percent of the plastic waste in our seas," Coordinating Maritime Affairs Minister Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan said on Wednesday (23/02).
The average Indonesian uses between 0.8 to 1 kilogram of plastic bags every year, most of which end up on rivers and streams and are washed away to the sea.
The country is the second largest plastic polluter in the world's oceans — after China — according to a study published in the Science journal in 2015.
Plastic degrades into tiny particles small enough to be ingested by plankton, carried into fish that eventually end up at our dinner table. "It's very dangerous especially to our children's health, even when they are still in the womb," Luhut said.
Plastic debris also gets washed up on once pristine beaches and remote islands — one of Indonesia's main tourist attractions, he said.
"Can you imagine the damage done to our tourism if someone flies for 16 hours from the US, spends a fortune on plane tickets and hotels, only to find beaches full of trash here?" he added.
Luhut's ministry will gather regional leaders from all over Indonesia next Monday to formulate a policy to reduce the use of plastic.
It may include reviving the "plastic bag tax" that some regions tried out last year as well as ramping up public education on the dangers of plastic waste, Luhut said.
"Indonesia has fought successfully against illegal fishermen and armed pirates. Now we'll lead the way in cleaning up our seas from plastic debris," Luhut said.
Indonesia's pledge is in line with the goals of the #CleanSeas campaign, a global initiative by UN Environment to reduce major marine waste — microplastics in cosmetics and single-use plastic — by the year 2022.
Launched at the Economist World Ocean Summit in Bali on Wednesday, the campaign wants to persuade governments to implement plastic reduction policies; businesses to reduce or redesign plastic wraps; and consumers to change their habit.
"It is past time that we tackle the plastic problem that blights our oceans. Plastic pollution is surfing onto Indonesian beaches, settling onto the ocean floor at the North Pole and rising through the food chain onto our dinner tables. We’ve stood by too long as the problem has gotten worse. It must stop," Erik Solheim, head of UN Environment, said in a statement.
The agency estimates 8 million tons of plastic are dumped in the ocean every year, making up 80 percent of all ocean litter.
It destroys marine wildlife, fishing industries and tourism, and causes at least $8 billion worth of damages to our marine ecosystems, the agency said.
UN Environment said in the statement that according to some estimates oceans will carry more plastic than fish by 2050, if humans continue to dump plastics into the ocean at today's rate.
Nine other countries have already joined Indonesia in the the campaign with far-reaching pledges to turn the plastic tide, including Uruguay that will tax single-use plastic bags later this year and Costa Rica that will ramp up its waste management and education.