The total amount of waste in Jakarta during the large-scale social restrictions or PSBB has decreased, but it does not apply for plastic waste.
We are entering the New Normal phase in Jakarta, and people have already been shifting their priorities. The build-up of fear over COVID-19 has made people more resistant to going outside.
Jakartans have adopted the choice of remote working and online workout sessions to avoid crowded places. People are also still cautious about buying food outside; food delivery and online groceries have become a staple for many Indonesian households.
However, there’s a dark side to the New Normal lifestyle. Better air quality and fewer traffic jams in cities come with great irony –the world will breathe better but wake up to an even bigger garbage crisis.
And the hard truth is that the New Normal means mountains of single-use plastic that came from those delivery packages and extra protective layers.
We Now Have Less Waste, But Not All Waste Has Decreased
According to the Jakarta Environment Agency, there is a decrease in waste generated in DKI Jakarta during the large-scale social restrictions (PSBB).
- March 1 – 15th, 2020 → waste averaged 9,300 tons per day
- March 16th – April 9th, 2020 → waste averaged 8,400 tons per day
- April 10th – June 4th, 2020 → waste averaged 6,300 tons per day
However, during the pandemic and large-scale social restriction (PSBB) in Jakarta, the plastic waste produced actually increased to 21% of the total waste compared to the composition in 2018, which was only 15%. In addition to that, out of 39 million tons of waste, 34% is dominated by plastic waste.
(From survey conducted by the DKI Jakarta Provincial Government in several waste collection centres during the PSBB period.)
During the PSBB period, many realised the importance of protecting the environment; however, in entering this New Normal transition period, many have continued to treat the situation like they used to.
Supposedly, with the change in environmental conditions during the PSBB, it can already be a learning opportunity on how we can maintain and positively impact the environment. But in fact, we have produced more plastic waste than ever during the work-from-home period.
Inavoidable Disposability and The Importance of Plastic Diet
One significant obstacle is that single-use plastic is almost impossible to avoid. And because it’s so ubiquitous, using it becomes a force of habit. We go to the grocery store, buy everything we need, and put it in a convenient single-use plastic bag.
However, in the age of the pandemic, single-use plastics are now more popular than ever, as people need products to wrapped safely in plastic. Hand sanitiser, tissue rolls, and take-out meals are all good examples. In addition, people scrub their personal belongings with sanitising wipes, packaged in single-use plastic containers. The temptation to rely more heavily on single-use plastics out of fear of sharing any lingering germs is now stronger than ever.
And the hard truth is, the New Normal means heaps of single-use plastic waste — and few places to throw it but the dumpster.
The irony of disposable plastic is that it survives forever. Plastics are indifferent to the pandemic – they will continue to accumulate in the oceans, where they will persist for centuries and even when they break down, they turn into microplastics that both bioaccumulate and biomagnify in the marine food chain, which will, in turn, work their way into the human diet.
Indonesia is the second-largest contributor to plastic waste in the world after China, and plastic is the most common waste in Indonesian waters.
Without we realising, environmental conditions and ecosystems are, in fact, the most important indicators of the spread of the virus. If ecological conditions keep worsening, then the rate of virus spread will rise exponentially, align with declining of human health.
New Normal, New Earth
Starting this 20th July 2020, we want to invite you to a New Normal, New Earth movement.
In light of the worldwide Plastic-Free July movement, the People of Asia, together with the Rethink Campaign, want to encourage you to create a new normal not only for us but also for the environment.
We invite you to reduce plastic waste and cultivate environmentally friendly habits by taking a pledge to reduce your consumption of the single-use plastic of your choice. With every pledge to reduce single-use plastic usage, we are creating more and more cleaner path for earth.
Last year Rethink Campaign already gathered 292 people to pledge a plastic-free life of their own. Now its time for you to join the movement with a mission to get 1,000,000 people to reduce their plastic consumption by 2021.
And you can get your own New Normal Kit to start your zero waste journey. By using this kit alone, you’ll reduce 107 plastic cutlery, 170 plastic bags and 362 plastic straw in a year!.
We can’t eliminate our plastic usage once and for all, but we can cultivate small habits that will keep us from unwanted and unnecessary waste. Choose what bad plastic habit you want to eliminate. Pledge now and create a better earth, one habit at a time.