“And I do believe that the magic word is again, collaboration. It’s always about collaboration. Particularly inviting all generations to focus on plastic waste and waste management.”– Bima Arya Sugiarto
Collaboration is the main point in Bogor City’s progress towards combating plastic pollution, according to the Mayor of Bogor City at the Paris International Forum to End Plastic Pollution in Cities. The event was held by Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo prior to the second session of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee (INC) on Plastic Pollution, which aims to highlight the importance of local governments in developing a legally binding international treaty on plastic pollution.
As the representative of WWF Plastic Smart Cities Initiatives present among other global mayors, scientists, and representatives from NGOs and philanthropies united to discuss the crisis of plastic pollution, and how cities can lead the way on solutions.
PLASTIC POLLUTIONS IN CITIES
The problem of plastic pollution is particularly acute in urban areas where high population densities and concentrated economic activity generate significant amounts of consumption and waste. As much as 288 million tons of plastic waste (75% of the total plastic waste generated) comes from municipal solid waste streams. UN Habitat estimates that around 60.1 million tons of it pollute the environment each year and around 11 million tons flow into the ocean. Cities stand at the forefront of this global issue.
REDUCING SINGLE-USE PLASTIC MOVEMENT
One of the key discussion points in this forum by the city leaders was the importance of reducing the use of single-use plastics and replacing plastics with other alternatives that are more environmentally friendly. Single-use plastic bag bans have proved extremely effective in Rwanda and Bogor.
Inger Andersen, Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations and Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme, cited Rwanda’s successful effort, in 2008, to ban plastic bags and instead promote alternative materials like bamboo and paper for packaging, as an example that many other cities have followed.
Following her speech, Bima Arya Sugiarto, Mayor of Bogor, Indonesia, shared his city’s groundbreaking initiative to ban single-use plastic bags in markets.
“In 2018, I introduced a Mayor Regulation to ban the use of plastic bags in modern retail minimarkets. Initially, it was rejected by the retail industries, of course, they did not like the idea. But we conducted a very massive campaign throughout the city, we conducted talk shows, discussion with housewives, and students, and we did a really provocative advertising through social media and so on and so forth, so basically the key messages are communications and socialization.”
Bima’s efforts with the city of Bogor to combat the use of single-use plastics paid off. After the first regulation in 2018, the policy has now expanded not only to modern minimarkets but also to traditional markets. To date, the policy has reduced plastic bag usage by 34% and increased eco-friendly shopping bag usage by 70%.
PLASTIC RECYCLING MANAGEMENT
As we try to move away from unnecessary plastics, creating schemes to incentivize recycling is also critical in Global South cities, according to Mayor Joy Belmonte of Quezon City, Philippines. Under her leadership, Quezon City created a “cash for trash” program that enables residents to exchange recyclable plastics for environmental credits, which they can use to purchase essentials like rice and eggs and pay for utility bills. As Quezon City, with the support of C40 Cities, aims to transition to a circular economy and substantially reduce waste, creating more robust recycling and waste-reduction programs is essential.
With a similar approach, Bogor city is collaborating with both established private sector and fresh start-ups to collect and recycle plastic waste through innovative ways such as a vending machine where people can exchange their used plastic bottle for phone credits. Moreover, the City’s partnership with a millennial-led startup is now looking at transforming plastic into eco-planks and eco-pavement for construction projects, hence recycling five tons of plastic each day in the process.
Bogor has also formed a special task force called the “Ciliwung Naturalization Task Force”.
This initiative, supported by Plastic Smart Cities, aims to bolster community-based waste management, by protecting the Ciliwung River from plastic and other waste dumping. It also aims to increase recycling, and to reusing or upcycling of plastic to remake into useful and potentially sellable products.
THE NEED FOR A GLOBAL, LEGALLY BINDING APPROACH TO PLASTICS
The Paris International Forum provided a platform for city leaders to exchange ideas, knowledge, and best practices to end plastic pollution in cities. Through close collaboration between governments, non-governmental organizations, and citizens, it is hoped that innovative solutions that are effective in addressing this issue can be created.
While individual cities have made enormous strides on managing and reducing plastic waste, all stakeholders present agreed that they cannot and should not have to face these challenges alone. As the second session of the INC on Plastic Pollution came to a close in Paris, the Forum sent a clear message that a global framework and treaty for curbing plastic waste is essential.
As cities continue to innovate, they should have the support of a global framework and legal structure to advance their actions. “The plastic treaty provides hope,” Greenville Mayor Errick Simmons said. “Cities cannot do it alone, governments cannot do it alone, individuals cannot do it alone.”
Director General of WWF International Marco Lamertini also addressed this through a short video created ahead of the INC2: