The Indonesian Plastic Bag Diet


Plastics are treated as a product that
miraculously appears from nowhere and it goes to nowhere. It starts when the oil and the gas leave the wellhead. And it keeps on being a problem at
every stage along the way. Why is it that we are seeing so much
more plastics entering the environment? This is the story of plastics. I feel like I don’t know how to answer
anymore when people say, “why are you focusing on plastic? Why is plastic a
problem.” I mean, I feel like I should just take them here. And not say anything
just take them here for an hour and then see what they think. Whether they think
plastic bags are not a problem anymore. What makes me so depressed is that
you can’t undo this, can you? It’s not possible. The stratification of plastic bag layers have reached
four or five meters deep into the soil. There’s really no way
of extracting it. I think what’s most frustrating is that the industries
are out there pushing the idea that this is all because of bad management. But they’re distracting from the truth, which is that there is no way you can manage this waste. It’s not meant to be managed. It has absolutely no value, it can’t be
recycled. It’s not the communities and the people in rural areas that are uneducated and unwilling, it’s the industries that are not letting them become educated enough to be aware about this. These industries that we’re talking
about, they’re multinational corporations. They’re not just fast-moving consumer
goods industries, they are also plastic manufacturers. They’re not just plastic
manufacturers, they are also fossil fuel industries that provide the raw material
for plastic pellets. But what bothers me is that people tend to look at these
rivers and these polluted beaches and think, “somebody needs to come here and
clean it up.” That’s just completely wrong, because not only is it almost impossible
and ineffective but it’s really not the solution.
The solution is prevention. So, plastic bag robbery is one of our most popular campaigns. We band together a bunch of volunteers, we give everybody
reusable bags, and then we fan out into public places, into crowds. Whenever we
see somebody who’s carrying a plastic bag we come up to them and then we say, “we’re going to take your plastic bag,” “but we’re going to exchange it with this
reusable bag.” So, the point of that is the exchange really. There’s an interaction
that happens between the volunteer and the person who is carrying the plastic
bag, so immediately in their minds there’s a difference between something
that single-use and something that’s reusable. Whether they’re reusing it or
not, that’s a different story because it’s hard to compete with free plastic
bags. What’s incentivizing them to bring their
own bags? Nothing. There has to be a policy, because that’s the only way that
you can get massive scale lifestyle conversions, so it’s light
and it’s fun – is the first step to go and that’s how you get people interested and
that’s how you get people to think of what more we can do.

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