Indonesia retail association scraps plastic bag charges after gov’t regulation expires

Plastic bags are free again in Indonesia, a backwards step that is going to pose a huge environmental cost.

As of October 1, the Indonesian Retail Enterprises Association (Aprindo) announced that they scrapped the policy requiring customers to pay a nominal fee for plastic bags in retail stores across Indonesia.

The move comes after Aprindo claimed that they received complaints from customers that retailers were still charging for plastic bags despite the fact that the trial period for the policy, which was put together by the Ministry of Environment and Forestry (KLHK), only ran from February 21, 2016 to May 31, 2016.

“After carefully deliberating on the developing effects [of the policy], we decided to make plastic bags free of charge again in all modern retailers from October 1, 2016 until the KLHK issues a ministerial decree to enforce the policy,” Aprindo Chairman Roy N. Mandey wrote in a statement on Saturday, as picked up by Liputan 6.

In Jakarta, customers who shopped at modern retailers, which included supermarkets, were charged Rp 200 per plastic bag. The fee was criticized as being too small, with many calling for a larger price per plastic bag in order to get citizens to bring their own reusable bags when shopping.

In any case, KLHK reported that there was a 25-30% decrease in plastic bag use across Indonesia during the 3-month trial period earlier in the year. A survey conducted by the ministry also showed that 87.2% supported the policy and 91.6% said they’d be willing to bring their own reusable bags when shopping.

There is no news yet on whether or not KLHK will issue a new decree to charge people for plastic bags again.

The Indonesian Consumers Foundation (YLKI) criticized KLHK for not doing enough on their part to resume the policy, especially since the foundation believes people’s shopping habits had changed for the better since the introduction of a small fee for plastic bags.

Government data shows that Indonesians have used about 9.8 billion plastic bags in the last 10 years, of which 95% ended up in the trash. Environmentalists say plastic bags are a plague on our environment, adding vast amounts of pollution to our oceans, killing wildlife, using up precious natural resources and taking decades to decompose.

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