Environmental activists in Indonesia have created a museum made entirely out of different types of single-use plastics to draw attention to the world's worsening ocean pollution from plastics. The plastics problem is especially big in Indonesia, which ranks second only behind China according to the US Environmental Protection Agency's October 2020 report with 10% of global marine litter originating in the country.
The exhibition in Gresik, East Java was made up of more than 10,000 plastic waste items all collected from polluted rivers and littered beaches around the region.
The centerpiece is a statue called "Dewi Sri", a goddess of prosperity widely worshipped by the Javanese. Her long skirt is made from single-use sachets of household items.
The museum has become a popular location for selfies shared widely on social media, where visitors pose against a background of thousands of suspended water bottles collected from several rivers over three years. The museum has attracted more than 400 visitors since it opened early last month as of the time of writing.
"We want to send information to the people to stop the use of single-use plastic," said the museum's founder Prigi Arisandi, an Indonesian biologist and environmentalist who won the Goldman Environmental Prize in 2011, for his efforts on reducing pollution in the Surabaya River.
"These plastics are very difficult to recycle. Starting today, we should stop consuming single-use plastic because it will pollute our ocean, which is also our source of food."
China, Indonesia, the Philippines and Vietnam are, according to the US report, the four countries that are responsible for over half of all ocean plastics and Indonesian efforts to regulate the use of plastic packaging have had mixed results. For instance, in 2020 the government had attempted to ban single-use plastics in mini-markets but did not enforce it in traditional markets.
“Our waste-management system is still not based on segregation. It’s the basic collect–transport–dispose method,” said Greenpeace Indonesia campaigner Muharram Atha Rasyadi. “Although there are movements to process waste at home, such as through composting, it’s mostly the community’s independent initiatives.”
It's also difficult to get consumers to move away from single-use plastics due to necessity. "A lot of consumer goods are packaged in small sachets for single use. Products in sachets, including shampoo, detergent and coffee, target the middle to lower class, who can only afford to buy these small quantities on a daily basis," Rasyadi said.