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Indonesia faces tricky task of reducing plastic marine waste

Hayati Nupus

JAKARTA (XINHUA) – “It’s hard to save the turtles which have eaten many plastic objects, because of their blocked digestive tracts and malnutrition,” said Dwi Suprapti, a member of IAM Flying Vet, an association of Indonesian Aquatic Megafauna Veterinarians.

Suprapti suspects the turtles accidentally eat plastic waste, mistaking it as food.

The plastic waste may appeal to turtles and look like jellyfish, with the waste smelling fishy and looking mossy having been in the sea for so long.

Back in 2020, Suprapti treated a green turtle that was washed ashore on Bali’s Kuta Beach and was in a weak condition. It refused to eat. An X-ray showed that there were many objects stuck in its intestines.

Suprapti and her team eventually removed 70 plastic objects, both in whole and in pieces, out of the turtle. “That was one of a few turtles we managed to save, and we released it back to the wild,” she said.

IAM Flying Vet often encounters the phenomenon of stranded megafauna due to plastic waste like bags and fishing nets in their bodies.

Apart from being consumed by marine animals, said Padjadjaran University marine science researcher Buntoro Pasaribu, the plastic waste settles to the bottom of the ocean, covering the habitat of marine flora and fauna and thus damaging the ecosystem.

Officers clean the seaside from trash in Muara Angke fishing village of North Jakarta, Indonesia. PHOTO: XINHUA

“And the plastic waste that ends up in the ocean can also end up in the human body when we consume contaminated sea fish,” Pasaribu explained.

Indonesia is one of the world’s largest ocean plastic polluters.

Head of Pollution Prevention of the Marine Affairs and Fisheries Ministry, Hendi Koeshandoko, said ocean currents would carry marine pollution from Indonesia to various countries, and vice versa.

The ministry is currently drafting a policy that requires every fishing vessel to carry a trash bag when going to sea and not throw the trash into the ocean, but that alone is not enough to solve the problem, as about 80 per cent of marine pollution comes from land.

It is not an easy task, said Director General for Waste Management of the Environment and Forestry Ministry Rosa Vivien Ratnawati, but Indonesia has reduced more than 200,000 tonnes of plastic waste entering sea from 2018 to 2022.

The country set a target in 2018 to reduce plastic waste entering sea by 70 per cent by 2025.

“Apart from that, comprehensive management is needed to solve the plastic waste problem in Indonesia, from production, transportation, to changing people’s habits and reducing the use of single-use plastics,” said Ratnawati.

According to data from the National Waste Management Information System, Indonesia produces nearly 20 million tonnes of waste per year, including around 18 per cent of plastic waste.

The use of technology, said Ratnawati, including installation for the processing of waste into electrical energy and biogas, is expected to provide a part of the solution.

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