When asked about household waste management in Indonesia, the CEO of an environmental solutions company declared that waste management is an easy thing: “Everyone can tackle the waste problem. It does not need a large place to treat our waste.” This optimistic view belies the enormity of the challenge. The mounting waste problem has driven a growing popular movement and increasing activism on the issue. The numbers tell the tall order: Indonesia, a country of about 275 million people, produces about 85,000 tons of waste a day. This is expected to rise to 150,000 tons a day by 2025. Indonesia has been reported to be the second biggest producer of plastic waste in the world after China.
According to the Ministry of Environment and Forestry, 69 percent of the annual 16 million tons of waste ended up in landfill. Most waste in Indonesia is generated from food and kitchen scraps and leftovers and plastics. In 2021, kitchen waste accounted for 28.3 percent of the total. These are easily recycled or processed.
The real challenge is plastic, which contributes 15 percent of total waste generated – up to 5.4 million tons a year. Plastic packaging is common due to its flexibility and cheap cost, but the material takes much longer to degrade and causes more environmental stress for a longer time than many other substances. Plastic, too, can make it into the food chain, especially in micro form such as when small bits of it in water are ingested by fish that are subsequently caught and prepared for consumption
Sustainable waste management
The linear economy, however, still employs the “take-make-waste” approach; a product is used and discarded at the end. This results in high waste generation that might have adverse environmental impact if it is not addressed. The limited landfill capacity in Indonesia could add to the burden if the amount of waste generated is not reduced.
The government has issued a roadmap for producers to reduce waste. Through this regulation, producers have been asked to curb waste generation by using degradable materials, recycling and reuse.