Confusion as Jakarta begins single-use plastic ban

A worker wearing a face shield and protective mask use a tote bag to replace plastic at a...
A worker wearing a face shield and protective mask use a tote bag to replace plastic at a supermarket in Jakarta. Photo: Reuters
Confusion reigned in malls and markets in Indonesia's capital as a new ban on single-use plastics in one of the world's biggest ocean-polluting nations failed to gain much traction.

Despite repeated announcements over loudspeakers and signs and banners forbidding single-use plastic bags, it was business as usual at one Jakarta market, where shoppers and vendors were unsure what they should use instead.

"I'm confused and also my buyers are even more confused," said Hadi, a vendor, who like many Indonesians uses only one name.

"I sell fish and there is nothing I can use except plastic bags."

Plastic bags of all sizes and colours were openly in use all around the ageing Lenteng Agung traditional market on the second day of the plastics ban.

Shopper Khairani said she backs the ban but only if there are viable alternatives.

"With fish and chicken, you cannot use anything other than plastic," she said, carrying two plastic bags in each hand.

"So we reduce our use of unnecessary plastic, but that does not mean there are no plastic bags [in use] at all."

Indonesia's plastics problem is an acute one, with the archipelago nation ranked second behind China for its volume of plastics that end up in the seas.

Together with the Philippines and Vietnam, those countries make up more than half of ocean plastics.

"It it's a good idea to reduce plastic bag usage, but it needs to be more intensely communicated to encourage people to bring their own bags," said shopper Farhan Ahmad.

The new regulation requires shops and stalls to provide environmentally friendly bags on pain of written warnings, hefty fines, then suspension or rescinding of permits.

"The rules are only two days old," said meat seller Novi Yanti. "We can't do it right away, it takes time."

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