PRAISE be! A solution to Asia’s EPR conundrum

With Indonesia being shamed internationally as the world’s second largest polluter of the oceans, its government has pledged to reduce plastics waste by 70 per cent by 2025 and has also committed to spend up to US$1 billion annually to removing plastics debris from its seas. According to the Ministry of Environment and Forestry, Indonesians throw away around nine million tonnes of plastics every year, with most of it ending up in landfills, clogging waterways or being washed away into the ocean, presenting a threat to marine life.

Unfortunately, the reality is that the country’s waste collection is shambolic. Relying as it does on the Waste Management Act (No 18, 2008), Indonesia provides for all the usual things that a ‘sanitation act’ should; urban waste collection by the municipalities, establishment of waste-separation centres, proper transportation of waste to reprocessing centres, and so on. Nowhere does it give details of how it should be implemented or how the waste should be separated.

As for who pays, the act is wonderfully vague: Article 24 (1) states that Government and the local government are obliged to finance the implementation of waste management, and (2) the finance, as mentioned in paragraph (1), shall derive from state revenue and expenditure budget and local revenue and expenditure budget.

But here’s the rub; both national and municipal governments are constantly at loggerheads as to who pays for what, with the result that with the exception of very basic urban garbage collection and delivery to massive open land-fill dumps, in the ten years since the legislation was passed there has been no effective modern waste management implementation in the country whatsoever.

 

Voluntary EPR
With the management of packaging waste an administrative nightmare, the role of multinational corporations as the ‘Polluter of 1st Instance’ is brought to the fore, with the reputational risk of having their brand packaging and their logos clogging rivers and getting washed up on the beaches.

Recognising that the 2008 legislation would be inadequate, two years later, in 2010, six of Indonesia’s largest multinational corporations (five brand owners and one packaging manufacturer) formed a coalition; PRAISE, the Packaging and Recycling Alliance for Indonesia Sustainable Environment.

Founding members at that time were the local units of Coca-Cola, Danone, Indofood, Nestlé, Unilever and Tetra Pak with the aim of supporting the development of sustainable and integrated packaging waste management solutions in the country.

The joint core mission was to:

  1. Create awareness of Extended Stakeholder Responsibility (ESR) as a multi-stakeholder integrated approach to sustainable waste management in line with the concept of a Circular Economy.
  2. Strengthen capacity of members through research, education and collaboration.
  3. Enlist participation of all stakeholders in government, private sector and public to actively take part in reducing impacts of packaging waste on the environment.

After two years research and analysis of the task ahead, PRAISE launched a pilot programme in South Jakarta: a Waste Bank, a centre to which residents could bring their collected packaging waste, have it weighed, valued and exchange it for credits in a ‘Bank Book’, which could then be used to pay children’s school fees or buy products at the local minimart.

The Waste Bank system has spread across the country and there are now more than 10,000 village or neighbourhood collection centres.

By 2015 PRAISE was able to put forward to government a Position Paper and Recommendations on National Policy & Strategy on Waste Management.

In addition to setting up the Waste Bank, each of the coalition members has been setting up their own waste recovery programmes.

Since 2007, Coca-Cola has been cleaning the four most highly populated tourist beaches in Bali. With 78 crews, four tractors and two rubbish trucks the project has collected in excess of 31.2 million tonnes of beach trash. It still isn’t enough, and other beaches rely on volunteers to clean them at weekends. But consider the impact on tourism had Coca-Cola not taken the initiative.

In June 2018, PT Tirta Investama, the local Indonesian company behind Danone-Aqua, the country’s largest bottled water brand, has pledged to recover and recycle more plastics from the environment by 2025.

Under the pledge, the local unit of French food giant Danone said in a presentation in Jakarta that it will recover more plastics than it uses and increase the proportion of recycled plastics in its bottles from the current 11 to 50 per cent.

According to Corine Tap, president of Tirta Investama: “Today, Danone-Aqua delivers more than two-thirds of its water in returnable, reusable containers. More than half of our PET bottles are already being collected and recycled into new bottles or other materials, such as textiles. But we have decided the time is right to invest further and to do more.”

As part of the commitment, the bottled -water company has assembled a team that includes retailer Sumber Alfaria Trijaya, operator of one of Indonesia’s largest convenience store chains Alfamart, with more than 10,000 outlets. Also part of the group is digital app developer Smash and the country’s largest mobile operator Telkomsel.

Under the programme, Danone aims to have drop boxes installed at all Alfamart convenience stores to serve 100 million consumers by 2025. The drop boxes will allow shoppers to scan their empty bottles as they discard them and be credited with points in Telkomsel’s T-Cash digital wallet system. This will also be tied in with the Waste Bank system.

“We want to encourage and educate consumers to be more creative in collecting and recycling their plastics waste into something of better value,” said Ivan Hermawan, general manager of corporate communications at Sumber Alfaria.

While the doctrine of Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) in the developed world scenario of Europe relies on ‘Assigned Obligation’ in which the brands and other obligated companies (manufacturers, retailers) assign their responsibility for clean-up/take-back/disposal to a third party organisation – these institutions just don’t exist in the developing world.

In that scenario, rather than simply ignore the problem and accept the fact that legislation isn’t robust – or transparent – enough to impose EPR, the multinationals are being compelled to actually take the concept and shoulder the responsibility themselves.