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The Important Role of A Master Plan in Urban Waste Management Planning in Indonesia

Updated: Oct 1, 2021

Jakarta - According to the data recorded by the Indonesian Ministry of Environment and Forestry, in 2020, there are nearly 190,000 tons of waste per day in Indonesia, or about 67.8 million tons per year. World Bank even states that important coastal ecosystems, such as mangroves, are experiencing major reductions. Not only that, but marine litter is also causing harm to the country every year. In its report, World Bank reveals that due to marine litter, Indonesia’s loss has reached 450 million USD. This figure is equal to around 6.5 trillion IDR (exchange rate of 14,450 IDR/USD).

Many policies have been made at the government level. However, there needs to be a breakthrough in the national policy that encourages and facilitates implementation and acceleration at the regional head level in responding to this challenge. Policies at the national level need to be carefully interpreted by the regions as an action plan that is measurable, easy to implement, acceptable to all parties, and has an impact.

In the framework of the Paris Agreement and green economy desired by President Jokowi, Indonesia is committed to developing research on waste management based on a circular economy. So far, the waste management implementation, starting from generated materials to final handling, has been linear. It is filled with tensions between parties with their own interests in mind due to the absence of a clear action plan road map. In consequence, the implementation is slow, the amount of waste that becomes a burden to the environment continues to rapidly accumulate, and that ultimately results in state losses.

Waste Management with a Multi-Stakeholder Approach

It is undeniable that municipal waste management needs to be executed with a multi-stakeholder approach. It has been proven that municipal waste management cannot be considered solely as the task and responsibility of local governments or one technical ministry such as the Ministry of Environment and Forestry. Practically, waste resolution needs to involve almost all existing ministries and institutions, as well as all elements of society.

Nevertheless, both central and local government have a main role in designing the portion in which every stakeholder will play a part:

  1. How much upstream waste is targeted to be handled by a group of people or community?

  2. How much waste needs to be handled with basic infrastructure such as the transportation of waste, waste bank, or 3R (reuse, reduce, recycle) waste management sites in the middle sector?

  3. How much waste needs to be handled by the downstream sector with massive infrastructure for final handling such as waste-to-energy process and landfills?

The answers to the simple questions above help stakeholders to be aware of their respective roles and positions, as well as make it easier for local governments in budget planning to support those activities.

In order to achieve great results, all activities in those sectors need to be in parallel and well-orchestrated in the implementation, as opposed to done one by one or sequentially as is the case today. Local governments have a central role in overseeing, supervising, and fine-tuning the policy to achieve the desired target.

The assignments of roles, portions, and clear targets can be used as a guideline for regional and local waste management implementations in a comprehensive city waste management master plan. Without the specificity of roles, portions, and targets, there will be misalignment and overlapping understanding among the stakeholders in each sector, which is counterproductive to the efforts of solving the waste problem as a whole.

One of the real impacts that has happened due to this absence of clarity is the emergence of the assumption that waste handling in the downstream sector threatens or reduces the role of upstream waste handling activities. The stakeholders end up debating continuously about which sector should be prioritized, which certainly affects the budget use.

On the other hand, we hear many jargons such as “from trash to cash”, which encourage the formation of public opinion that waste handling could be resolved if the public participates by sorting waste and handing it over to recycling collectors. In reality, the amount of waste that is recyclable is limited, and technically, plastic can only be recycled 2-3 times before the material eventually ends up in a landfill.

As a matter of fact, every activity sector is important and cannot replace each other. In the waste handling hierarchy of reduce, reuse, recycle, recovery, and final disposal, every step is an activity that has an irreplaceable role. The zero-waste vision that is often brought up has not even been achieved in the European Union, where its waste management standard is considered advanced. The EU is still gradually reducing the target of waste that ends up in landfills from year to year.

The Role of Polluters in Waste Management

In constructing a master plan to resolve waste problems in a city, the planning commission is often caught up in selecting applied technologies. Subsequently, they overlook the discussion about the responsibility of the ultimate beneficiary, which is the people of the society itself, who enjoy the benefits of having a clean environment as a solution to the waste problem that they create.

The efforts to involve the ultimate beneficiary’s responsibility are the backbone to solve waste problems. In developing a city’s waste policy, we need to realistically answer these simple questions for a short, medium, and long term target:

  1. Will raising the awareness of people as polluters about waste impact be able to reduce waste (MSW)? As a consideration: The European Union’s waste generation is in the range of 0.76-2.3 kg/person/day, whereas in America it is 2.3 kg/person/day, and in Japan 0.918 kg/person/day. On the other hand, Jakarta generates 0.85 kg waste/person/day. The awareness of waste impact toward the environment is outstandingly high in the European Union and Japan. Nonetheless, the waste generation per capita in these two regions is higher than that of Jakarta where the awareness is considered low. This suggests that high awareness of waste impact, even to the point where it is included in education curriculums, does not correlate with waste generation decrease per capita. Waste is a result of economic activities that are essential to a country. That is why, the social engineering that exists in the world today still does not guarantee the reduction of waste generation per polluter.

  2. How much of the waste generation can be handled individually by polluters through reuse and recycle? Meaning, how much waste is transferred by polluters for other parties to handle? Certainly, the individual waste handling here refers to activities that are not prohibited by law. Individual waste handling practices such as waste burning in the yard or disposing waste in rivers have been prohibited by law. In semi-urban areas, the people still own yards that are spacious and close to farms, so individual handling can be more effective. Leftovers or food waste can be used as animal feed or compost. However, in dense urban areas where the household members work outside the home, it is unlikely to conduct practical composting. The amount of waste transferred by polluters is what ultimately represents how much waste handling cost needs to be financed by the polluters themselves.

We need to respond to these simple questions together in evaluating the waste policy we have today. By looking at the calculated figures, the waste generation per person per day and the amount of waste that requires shared infrastructure will then be readable.

The Next Question: Is It Right for the Community as Polluters to Transfer the Responsibility for Financing Waste Entirely to Local Government Budget and State Budget?

As an illustration, with 0.85 kg of waste/person/day and the ability to use and recycle up to 0.05 kg/person/day, the amount of waste transferred to other parties is 0.80 kg/person/day. If the cost of waste collection and management per ton (1,000 kg) is 2 million IDR, the person who transfers that 0.80 kg/day is obligated to pay the amount of Rp1,600 per day, or Rp48,000 per month. This value is much cheaper than electricity costs, parking fees, and toll road fees per month for some of the people in Jakarta.

The fact is, with 11 million population, today Jakarta funds the waste handling through the local government budget in the amount of Rp2.7 trillion per year, or Rp245,000 per citizen per year, or Rp 20,000 per month. Unfortunately, this limited waste budget results in insufficient waste services. Jakarta is considered to be a clean city as garbage has been collected properly, but sadly, the people of Jakarta are still piling up waste in Bantargebang like a timebomb. Outside of Jakarta, the situation is much worse.

For that very reason, in order to achieve good waste service, it is necessary to have public awareness that cleanliness and waste handling are forms of service, so there is a cost to pay for these services. Without the willingness to pay for service, what happens is the transfer of responsibility from polluters to the local governments, and from local governments to other parties. Consequently, implementation will only stay as a plan yet to be executed.

Today, some levels of society have been paying for cleaning fees through neighborhood committees or service fees to the developers or management. Regrettably, most of the costs billed have not been channeled to the local government budget. Hence, up until today, the waste retribution has not been able to independently fund the waste management budget, let alone finance the improvement of waste management.

Today, the people of Indonesia enjoy electricity and pay for it, they enjoy clean water and pay for it, they enjoy toll road services and they pay for the fees. However, most of the people are enjoying cleanliness while hoping that the fees to provide sanitation infrastructure will be covered by the government. To change this current situation, the waste master plan of a city certainly needs to be equipped with an action plan. Paying for waste services is the main role of polluters as an accountability of their activities.

The Role of Industries in Waste Handling

The amount of waste generated by polluters are determined not only by their consumptive nature, but also how much material used by the producers can be reused by the consumers. For instance, what percentage of the weight of the product packaging needs to be handled by a third party, and what percentage can be recycled.

The main role of industries is ensuring that that information is available and accessible to the public so polluters can choose products whose packages cause lower environmental impact. To curb the waste generation rate, industries could also be mandated with regulations to reduce packaging portions and choose more recyclable materials. That is why industries hold an important role in waste management.

There needs to be a realization that except for metal and glass, even recycled plastic has limitations. Plastic, which is the biggest problem today, is a polymer whose chemical structure degrades every time it goes through a recycling process. For that reason, plastic can only go through the recycling process 2-3 times before ending up in landfills. This is where the role of waste-to-energy is needed, namely where plastic, as known to be a fossil oil derivative, can be recovered as fuel to produce energy, whatever its form.

The Central Role of Regional Government as an Orchestrator of All Waste Handling Activities

Currently, any waste that cannot be handled individually by polluters is handled by the government, the people/community, or corporations. The roles of these parties are coordinated by regional governments so that the waste collection process, communal waste management activities (3R Waste Management Sites), waste-to-product recovery activities (energy & material recovery), and final waste management (landfill) can be well conducted.

The cost of these activities is what needs to be financed by the waste retribution from polluters. In addition to the coordinating role, regional governments also play an important role in collecting the retribution from polluters and ensuring that the retribution is utilized to the best of its ability to finance activities carried out by parties that are proven to be able to handle waste responsibly.

With this strategy, the amount of waste that reaches the landfill will be reduced from year to year. The role of regional governments as the party responsible for municipal waste, according to the regulation, is not to finance waste management through the local government budget, but to coordinate between polluters and parties that are proven to have effective roles in waste management.

Municipal Waste Master Plan Based on National Strategic Policy

The Indonesian government has actually laid the foundation for waste management policies in Presidential Regulation no. 97 in 2017. The national target for waste handling is stated in the National Strategic Policy for Waste Management 2017-2025 which covers a reduction target of 30% upstream and 70% in downstream handling.

This policy is then interpreted in derivative policies, including (a) Ministry of Environment and Forestry Regulation no. 10/2018, which translates the Presidential Decree 97/2017 into regional policies and (b) the policy to accelerate the implementation of waste processing into electricity in 12 cities, stated in the Presidential Decree no. 35/2018 to deal with areas in which the waste problem is considered an emergency.

Nevertheless, these derivative policies are still incomplete because the waste collection level in many cities in Indonesia is still low, especially in districts with large areas. Without good waste collection, efforts toward waste management are clearly facing a bigger challenge. On the other hand, the current implementing policy, which is the Presidential Decree no. 35/2018, can barely cover 9% of the total waste generation projection as it is only implemented in 12 cities. Hence, there needs to be other complementing policies in order to achieve the national targets.

As it turns out, the Ministry of Environment and Forestry Regulation no. 10 of 2018 interprets the national target in National Strategy and Policy as a top-down target in every region. That means every region is required to achieve a 30% reduction and 70% handling regardless of the conditions. This target is undoubtedly difficult to achieve for regional governments as each region has various situations and conditions.

The overall waste management target in all countries that are part of the European Union is to reach 25% waste in landfills by 2025 and 50% waste to be recycled. The real proportion and its implementation vary in each EU country, depending on its respective conditions.

The European Union statistics show that in 2018, Switzerland, Sweden, Finland, and Luxembourg continued to lean on waste-to-energy to handle ±50% of the waste generated. The remaining was handled by recycling and other methods. In these countries, the target of waste in landfills occupies an incredibly small portion, far below that of the European Union. On the contrary, there are countries such as Spain, Turkey, Greece, Romania, and Poland that are still leaning on landfills to handle more than 50% of their waste generation while implementing a smaller portion of waste-to-energy recovery.

Similar to the European Union, every city or district in Indonesia has different conditions and situations. That is why the target of 30%:70% which is rigidly set in the Ministry of Environment and Forestry Regulation no. 10 of 2018 is difficult to interpret into a more realistic work plan. Without the flexibility to set their own strategy, the national strategies and policies issued by local governments are not based on a particular strategy or work plan; they are merely derivative policies that are difficult to implement.

If this Ministry of Environment and Forestry Regulation can be revised to be more flexible with an adjustable work plan target for every region, then each city and district will be able to prepare a waste management master plan which contains their respective strategies to regulate activities in the upstream, middle, and downstream sector; the retribution policy plan; periodic targets and the execution of coordination functions; and the implementation. The provincial governments then can carry out their role of consolidation and balancing of each city and district master plan to be able to pursue national targets in the National Strategy and Policy.

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