The government has long recognized that the ubiquitous plastic shopping bag is one of the main contributors to Indonesia's massive waste problem. (Antara Photo/Yulius Satria Wijaya)

Retailers Begin Charging for Plastic Bags

MARCH 01, 2019

Jakarta. Retailers started charging customers for disposable plastic bags on Friday, reviving an old policy in the hope of encouraging Indonesians to opt for more environmentally friendly alternatives.

The central and regional governments have long recognized that the ubiquitous plastic shopping bag, known as kresek, is one of the main contributors to Indonesia's massive waste problem. 

The Indonesian Retail Association (Aprindo), a lobby group that includes hundreds of retailers, said its member have agreed to charge customers at least Rp 200 (about 1.4 US cents) for each plastic bag. However, it is still up to each member on how to implement this rule, or whether not to implement it at all. 

Aprindo said its members seek to support government efforts to reduce plastic waste by 70 percent from the current level by 2025.

The association tested the policy in 2016, just to abandon it a few months later due to consumer blowback. But if the implementation succeeds this time, it will be a positive catalyst for retailers. The additional revenue from the plastic bags should allow them to provide biodegradable bags, which are more costly.

Several cities have promoted a reduction in the use of plastic. Tourism hotspot Bali began enforcing a regulation on reducing the use of plastic bags on Jan. 1, while Gramedia, Indonesia's largest bookstore chain, no longer provides plastic bags on the island and informed customers to bring their own.

Jakarta Governor Anies Baswedan announced on Dec. 19 last year that his administration would soon ban the use of plastic bags altogether. Isnawa Adji, then-head of the province's environmental services, said at the time that under the proposed regulation, citizens could face fines of between Rp 5 million and Rp 25 million for using plastic bags.