• Indonesia is announcing a plan to tackle plastic pollution.
  • The country aims to cut marine plastic waste by 70% within five years.
  • By 2040, Indonesia plans to be entirely plastic pollution-free.

What will it take to end plastic pollution within a generation?

For Indonesia, it all began with a radical vision.

Our beautiful nation is grappling with a serious plastic pollution challenge. We are home to the world’s largest archipelago – more than 17,000 islands, 81,000 kilometres of coastlines and a rich abundance of biodiverse marine ecosystems. Our pristine natural environment is a gift that we have treasured for thousands of years, and one that we must pass down to future generations.

At the same time, the amount of plastic waste generated in Indonesia each year is growing at unsustainable levels. In our cities, our waterways and our coastlines, the accumulation of toxic plastic waste is harming our food systems and the health of our people. Our booming fishing industry, the second-largest in the world, is under threat from rising levels of marine plastic debris. By 2025, the amount of plastic waste leaking into our oceans could increase to 800,000 tonnes – if no action is taken.

I’m proud to announce that Indonesia will be choosing not what is easy, but what is right. Rather than staying with a ‘business as usual’ approach, we will be embracing a sweeping, full-system-change approach to combatting plastic waste and pollution, one that we hope will spark greater collaboration and commitment from others on the global stage.

At the World Economic Forum’s Annual Meeting in Davos this year, we are presenting to the world a first look at Indonesia’s new plan for tackling plastic pollution, which aims to cut marine plastic debris by 70% within the next five years.

The vision goes even further: by 2040, we aim to achieve a plastic pollution-free Indonesia – one that embodies the principle of the circular economy, in which plastics will no longer end up in our oceans, waterways and landfills, but will go on to have a new life.


What is the World Economic Forum doing about plastic pollution?

More than 90% of plastic is never recycled, and a whopping 8 million metric tons of plastic waste are dumped into the oceans annually. At this rate, there will be more plastic than fish in the world’s oceans by 2050.

The Global Plastic Action Partnership (GPAP) is a collaboration between businesses, international donors, national and local governments, community groups and world-class experts seeking meaningful actions to beat plastic pollution.

In Ghana, for example, GPAP is working with technology giant SAP to create a group of more than 2,000 waste pickers and measuring the quantities and types of plastic that they collect. This data is then analysed alongside the prices that are paid throughout the value chain by buyers in Ghana and internationally.

It aims to show how businesses, communities and governments can redesign the global “take-make-dispose” economy as a circular one in which products and materials are redesigned, recovered and reused to reduce environmental impacts.

Read more in our impact story.

Five points of action

To successfully reach the 70% reduction target by 2025, we are committed to leading five system-change interventions that will change the way plastics are produced, used, and disposed of.

1) Reduce or substitute plastic usage to prevent the consumption of 1.1 million tonnes of plastic per year.[i]

We will work with industry leaders in Indonesia to transform their supply chains by rooting out plastic materials that can be avoided. Examples include replacing single-use packaging with reusable packaging; embracing new delivery models, such as refill shops; and empowering consumers to move away from single-use plastic consumption.

2) Redesign plastic products and packaging with reuse or recycling in mind. Recognizing that some forms of plastics cannot be substituted with alternative materials, we need to make sure that they do not become mismanaged waste. We will work with manufacturers and innovators to champion an industry-wide shift towards circular plastics – with the ultimate goal of making all plastic waste a valuable commodity for reuse or recycling.

3) Double plastic waste collection to 80% by 2025. Currently, around 39% of the total plastic waste in Indonesia is collected; in rural and remote areas, this figure is as low as 16%.[ii] We need to aggressively invest in our waste-collection infrastructure, both in the formal sector (government employees) and the robust informal sector (waste pickers, many of them women, who play a significant role in our national waste management efforts).

4) Double our current recycling capacity to process an additional 975,000 tonnes of plastic waste per year.[iii] In 2017, only 10% of plastics generated in Indonesia were recycled. We urgently need to close this capacity gap by directing investment into expanding existing infrastructure facilities and building new infrastructure to match the explosive growth in plastic production across the ASEAN region.

5) Build or expand safe waste disposal facilities to manage an additional 3.3 million tonnes of plastic waste per year.[iv] This is our last chance to put a safeguarding measure at the end of the plastic lifecycle to prevent plastic waste from becoming plastic pollution. These facilities will allow us to safely dispose of non-recyclable plastic materials, as well as plastic waste that is generated in remote locations without recycling facilities.

Only a fraction of plastic is recycled. Indonesia plans to lead the way in reversing that trend
Only a fraction of plastic is recycled. Indonesia plans to lead the way in reversing that trend
Image: Our World in Data

What’s next?

We believe urgent action is needed to turn the tide of plastic waste and pollution in Indonesia, and that all have a role to play in driving this change.

President Joko Widodo has set the course with two crucial pieces of legislation. The Indonesia National Waste Management Policy and Strategy (Presidential Decree No. 97/2017) and the Plan of Action on Marine Plastic Debris 2018-2025 (Presidential Decree No. 83/2018) have put the fight against plastic pollution at the top of the national agenda, creating the enabling environment that we needed as policy-makers to deliver on this ambitious vision.

The first step in this process was to bring the right stakeholders onboard. In March last year, we joined the Global Plastic Action Partnership, a new public-private collaboration platform hosted at the World Economic Forum, as its first national partner. We became the first country in the world to test-drive the National Plastic Action Partnership (NPAP) model – a nimble, inclusive and solutions-driven approach to solving the challenge of plastic pollution. The same model is now being piloted in Ghana, and soon in Viet Nam.

Through the NPAP, we have created a platform for bringing together Indonesia’s top minds to take on plastic pollution together, from researchers to businesses to civil society. Collectively, we have created a national roadmap that lays out the concrete steps we need to take – in policy-making, manufacturing, awareness-building and driving investment – to achieve a plastic pollution-free Indonesia.

Although the full report is still in the final stages of preparation, I feel it is crucial to share its key recommendations and action steps at Davos, this unparalleled global convening of decision-makers and innovators, so that all can hear the good news: Indonesia’s unprecedented national effort to take on plastic pollution is crossing a new frontier in what is possible. Working from the basis of a radical idea, we have built a platform, mobilized willpower from all sectors, and identified a clear path towards our goal: to show that plastic pollution is not too complex or too enormous a challenge to overcome.

As we move from incubation to implementation in the months to come, I invite all to join us on this journey. As Indonesia puts this plan into action, we look forward to sharing our knowledge and to learning from others on bringing solutions and successes to scale. Together, we will demonstrate how we can work together to end plastic pollution and build a healthier, more sustainable future for our children and grandchildren.

Notes on data:

[i] This figure was calculated as part of an analysis adapted from global research by the Pew Charitable Trusts and SYSTEMIQ and was carried out with the Indonesia National Plastic Action Partnership (NPAP) Expert Panel, Indonesia NPAP Steering Board, Indonesian government and other stakeholders. The analysis forms part of the full Indonesia plastic action roadmap, which will be released in spring 2020.

[ii] Data from JAKSTRADA database (Indonesia Ministry of Environment and Forestry), PUPR Waste portal (Indonesia Ministry of Public Works and Public Housing), and What a Waste Global Database (World Bank).

[iii] Data from analysis conducted on recovered plastics through both formal sorting centres and waste pickers.

[iv] The 3.3 million target corresponds to the remaining amount of collected plastic that is not recycled and is not channelled into landfills due to limited existing capacity within landfills. Calculated using data from the JAKSTRADA database (Indonesia Ministry of Environment and Forestry), and PUPR Waste portal (Indonesia Ministry of Public Works and Public Housing).