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Environment

Rivers in Indonesia Are Inundated With Plastic Waste

In Indonesia, plastic pollution has been a recurring problem for years, but due to a population boom and the expanded use of plastic containers, the situation has escalated into a crisis.

Discarded plastic is now disrupting the flow of some of the country’s major rivers. Recently, BBC journalists captured photos of what they described as a “giant plastic ‘berg” blocking a major tributary in Bandung, Indonesia’s third -largest city.

According to the BBC, Indonesian officials say they are engaged in a “battle” with the ‘berg, and a military commander, whose troops have been called in to help with the cleanup, described trash as his soldiers’ “biggest enemy.” The soldiers have tried to combat the massive trash pile-up by pulling Styrofoam food boxes, plastic bottles, and bags out of the water with nets, but the effort appears to be ineffectual as new plastic is flowing into the water system faster than they can fish it out.

A canal outside the capital, Jakarta, is in a similar state of perpetual blockage, the BBC reported.

Take Action: Call on Governments and Business Leaders to Say No to Single-Use Plastics

The waterway blockages are just the tip of the plastic ‘berg for Indonesia. The country has long struggled with its plastic waste production. Each of Indonesia’s 350 million residents is responsible for more than two pounds of plastic waste per year, according to The Guardian. And the Southeast Asian nation is the second-largest contributor of plastic waste to the world’s oceans. Collectively, Indonesia, China, Vietnam, the Philippines, and Thailand produce more than half of the world’s oceanic plastic waste, according to the World Bank.

In order to mitigate the problem, the Indonesian government pledged $1 billion per year to reduce pollution in its waters by 70% as part of the United Nations’ Clean Seas campaign in 2017.

In addition to public education campaigns, recycling incentives, and introducing plastic bags fees to curb plastic waste, the government has also experimented with converting recycled plastic waste into tar for roads.

Read More: Plastic Production Is Set to Increase by 40% Over the Next Decade, Experts Say

However, the government’s efforts haven’t yielded many visible results, as evidenced by the “seas of plastic” emerging in cities across the country.

Without a “massive shift in public opinion,” especially regarding the long-standing practice of throwing garbage into ditches and streams, attempts to clean up could prove futile, according to the BBC.

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