Indonesia partnered with the World Economic Forum to fight plastic pollution. Here’s what has been achieved in 2 years.

By Kirana Agustina, Engagement Specialist, Indonesia National Plastic Action Partnership

TWO YEARS AGO, we brought together policymakers, experts, businesses, entrepreneurs and civil society organizations to create Indonesia’s pioneering National Plastic Action Partnership (NPAP). Two years on, the NPAP is Indonesia’s leading platform for public-private collaboration, with more than 150 member organizations determined to end plastic pollution in our country.

Plastic waste is at near-unsustainable levels here, harming food systems and public health. If we do nothing, by 2025, 800,000 tonnes of plastic a year will be leaking into the oceans that surround us.

At Davos in 2020, Coordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs and Investment, Luhut B. Pandjaitan, announced that Indonesia was choosing not what is easy but what is right, giving the world its first glimpse of our ambitious plan to cut Indonesia’s maritime plastic waste by 70% in just five years.

As the world’s largest archipelago nation, we depend on healthy oceans. 70% of our population – the fourth largest on Earth – live near the coast. Many people here rely on fish, tourism and the marine ecosystem. Scientific research shows us that plastic pollution persist all the way to inside the fish bought and sold at our markets.

The action roadmap that Minister Luhut previewed at Davos is a comprehensive, costed analysis of the systems changes needed to end plastic pollution in Indonesia. Crucially, it has the buy-in of businesses, government and civil society, who are all invested in the process of genuine change. We are proud that, just after the start of the pandemic, over 5,000 people watched the roadmap launch event online.


Scaling finance and innovation

Action on this scale requires massive resourcing and sustainable financing solutions: we need around $18 billion of capital investment to make everything happen. So, after we had agreed on targets, the NPAP Financing Task Force – made up of partners from government, investment, international development, philanthropy, innovation and civil society – produced a financing roadmap that provides the necessary framework for tackling the financing challenge.

We have five expert Task Forces, each one focusing on specific areas to accelerate progress towards our goals. They also work closely with each other, such as the Financing and Innovation Task Forces that regularly convene to match investors with investment opportunities. Reducing plastic waste  is a great opportunity to unleash innovation and creativity while enabling new business opportunities.

On that note, our innovation challenge with UpLink has just launched. We’re searching for big ideas to propel us forward, but NPAP is also an inclusive platform, and addressing social issues is at the heart of our work. That’s why the innovation challenge aims to engage and encourage informal sector workers. One of our primary objectives is to double the amount of waste our society collects, and informal waste pickers can play a key role in getting us there. We’ve ensured that our Innovation Task Force includes members from global corporations and local waste pickers, among others. We’re forming dialogues between groups that might not otherwise take place. In fact, the collaboration has already led to businesses and waste pickers’ representatives working on apps that create a marketplace for pickers to sell the waste they collect at a fair price.

270 million stakeholders

A few days ago, we released the innovation roadmap, which identifies opportunities to innovate across and beyond the plastics value chain. We want to develop an integrated and connected bench of bold ideas: solutions that work at both the local and systemic level.

This year, all the remaining Task Forces will produce roadmaps: the metrics roadmap sets the data baseline by which we can measure success; the policy roadmap, supported by key government ministries, will highlight best practice from around the world that we can apply in Indonesia, incentivizing investment in a circular economy for plastic; and the behaviour change roadmap is a vital part of effecting real change.

We mustn’t lose sight of the fact that Indonesia is a large, diverse nation. From megacities like Jakarta to small rural communities on one of 6,000 inhabited islands, everyone has a part to play in solving this problem. Yet 60% of people in Indonesia are not aware of the issue of plastic waste. So the behaviour change roadmap will be crucial in raising awareness and changing attitudes.

The NPAP brings together as many stakeholders as possible to solve the plastic waste problem. Government ministries, global businesses, plastic producers, recyclers, investors, inventors, NGOs and local communities are all sitting around the same tables. That’s very powerful. All of us need to work hand-in-hand to meet our 70% marine waste reduction target. It’s no small challenge, but if we unite our minds to achieving it, we will work harder to get there.

Indonesia’s NPAP was the first in the world, but already other nations – Ghana, Viet Nam, Nigeria – are following in our footsteps. The Global Plastic Action Partnership is also developing a user-friendly Playbook that draws on our experiences and supports other countries interested in creating an NPAP. Our collaborative platform, built by all sectors of society and working towards a shared goal, has worked hard for two years, and there’s much more to do. But I believe that, together, we can free the beautiful coastlines of our wonderful islands from the threat of plastic pollution.