Religious groups join forces to fight plastic pollution in Indonesia

World Today

The Indonesian government is tackling its plastic pollution problem with the help of clerics from two of the country’s largest Islamic organizations.

The program aims to raise awareness of the dangers plastic waste poses to the environment.

CGTN’s Silkina Ahluwalia filed this report from Jakarta.

Follow Silkina Ahluwalia on Twitter @Silkina

Children at one facility in Jakarta are listening to a sermon on the importance of caring for the environment. It’s part of a program called “Sermons on Waste” initiated by two of Indonesia’s largest Islamic organizations: Nadatul Ulama (NU) and Muhammadiyah. Together, they have a total of 100 million followers across the country.

“We have a very effective system of education through sermons here,” said Fitria Ariyani, NU’s Director for Disaster Management and Climate Change Risk. “We want to instill the awareness in children that recycling doesn’t mean it has to have an economic effect,. They should care for their surroundings and recycle for its social and environmental benefits.”

The sermons are a way to raise awareness about plastic pollution and to encourage their followers to ban single-use plastics.

Ariyani says the challenge lies in convincing the older generation to adopt these healthier habits. Housewives, especially, are set in their traditional ways. That’s what the organization hopes to change.

Indonesia uses an estimate of 9.8 billion plastic bags every year, and many of that ends up in the ocean. The Indonesian government has pledged to reduce marine waste by at least 70-percent by 2025. That means spending up to $1 billion to clean the country’s rivers and seas.

Indonesia is the world’s second-largest producer of plastic waste. Last year, the popular tourist island of Bali declared a trash emergency after tons of plastic debris washed up on its beaches.

“The Ministry of Religion needed to intervene and introduce this initiative,” Environmentalist Dwi Sawung said. “This has become a trend now, where religious leaders are helping to foster their communities to reduce waste, especially plastic waste. This will slowly help to raise awareness in the country.”