Danone's new 100 percent recycled and 100 percent recyclable bottles feature a minimalist design embossed into the surface, which replaces the iconic blue label that used additional plastic. (Photo courtesy of Danone)

What Indonesia and Danone Are Doing to Reduce Plastic Waste

MARCH 04, 2019

Jakarta. Indonesia's massive plastic waste problem is a serious matter that requires a collective effort by all stakeholders, including government, business and the community, to solve.

Plastic, as a resource, is versatile and since its inception, was never meant to be overproduced. It has always required a certain wisdom to use, from producer to consumer. That is why consumers have always been encouraged to reduce, reuse and recycle plastic bottles and other products commonly derived from petrochemicals. But somewhere along the way, that wisdom has diminished.

That is why Danone, one of the largest bottled water producers in the country, has taken the initiative to start producing the country's first plastic bottles that are both 100 percent recycled and 100 percent recyclable – made without any virgin plastic.

The new bottles feature a minimalist design embossed into the surface, which replaces the iconic blue label that used additional plastic.

The new plastic bottles have been available commercially since last month.

In an article on Danone's website, it says this is part of its contribution to support the government's efforts to reduce by 70 percent by 2025 the amount of plastic waste that ends up in the ocean. The company will also work with partners to recover plastic waste from the environment for reuse.

Danone has long delivered two thirds of its water in returnable, reusable jugs, according to Corine Tap, general manager Tirta Investama, the company behind the Danone Aqua brand. She explained that more than half of the polyethylene terephthalate bottles the company produces are collected and recycled into new bottles or other materials, such as textiles, but that the company decided to step up its efforts.

The plastic waste recycling stream in Indonesia is patchy at best, and is one of the first hurdles the company must pass. It is crucial that it makes sure that more used plastic bottles are captured in the recycling stream.

One of the ways the company is doing this is through investing in Circulate Capital – a fund that will ultimately help improve plastic recycling infrastructure and formalize plastic waste collection systems in the country – to show investors in Southeast Asia the more profitable side of the plastic waste management and recycling industry as part of its #BijakBerplastik movement, or "Using Plastic Wisely."

The #BijakBerplastik campaign calls on consumers, companies and the government to work together to spread awareness about plastic waste in Indonesia, and find "wise" solutions to its growing plastic waste problem.

The campaign will see Danone partnering with convenience store chain Alfamart and cellular network operator Telkomsel, to place recycling drop boxes that will offer shoppers Telkomsel credits in exchange for dropping off used plastic bottles. By placing these drop boxes at Alfamart locations nationwide, Danone hopes to make the program available to 100 million people by 2025.

Additionally, it plans to work with local governments, nongovernmental organizations and private companies to launch a nationwide plastic recycling education program and to promote consumer awareness around recycling in 20 Indonesian cities by 2020.

Indonesia is the world's second-largest plastic polluter after China, according to a 2015 study by the University of Georgia and published in the academic journal, Science.

Southeast Asia's largest economy generates around 3.22 million metric tons of mismanaged plastic waste annually, about 40 percent of which ends up in polluting the ocean.

Plastics, when consumed and managed improperly, can be devastating to our ecosystem, but if the community, large companies and the government can work together to use and manage plastics more wisely, it can be a limitless and vastly versatile resource.