Environmental Issue: Underwater image of Plastic in the Ocean. The location here is Phi Phi Islands, Krabi, Thailand.

The problem of plastic waste in Indonesia

Leakage of plastic waste into the environment in Indonesia is amongst the highest in the world. In 2017, the Indonesian government introduced an ambitious target to reduce marine plastic debris by 70% by 2025. Yet social, behavioural, economic, political and infrastructural challenges hamper progress across the country's 17,000 islands.

The project

PISCES is a £3.8 million project led by Brunel University – as part of a larger £20 million round of GCRF funding – that will involve an international multi-disciplinary team to create ‘hope spots’ in Indonesia’s battle against plastic waste.
It aims to bring together political, environmental, economic, technical and social disciplines to understand and address the causes of failure, rather than treat symptoms. The findings will take a holistic view of the problem to generate evidence that informs government intervention programmes.
With £1 million awarded to the University of Plymouth, our research is designed to inform and add value to these programmes, driving inter-connectivity between academia and government, established public-private partnerships, and implementation programmes.
The project will:
  • research sources, pathways and fates of plastic waste in the environment on a national scale using state-of-the-art modelling to estimate the volumes of plastic reaching land, rivers and seas in Indonesia
  • conduct model validation through litter surveys to categorise litter from the point of release into the environment and at increasing distances from source to sea
  • examine impacts of plastic waste leakage on ecosystem services and functions as well as social and economic structures
  • increase understanding on human behavioural and cultural factors associated with consumption, use and disposal of plastic through focus groups in the community
  • harmonise data under an analytical framework to assess the complex value of plastic in a whole-system assessment and identify effective intervention points
  • create ‘living laboratories’ where experts from different disciplines and sectors will be brought together with civil society to look at which solutions will work and what the relative costs and benefits of each might be.
Professor Richard Thompson OBE
Professor Richard Thompson OBE
Professor Richard Thompson, Head of the University’s International Marine Litter Research Unit, added:
“Given the global nature of this issue, it is crucial that nations come together to tackle ocean plastics wherever possible. In the UK, we are taking steps to reduce society’s impact on the environment and the University has played a significant role in influencing them. This project gives us the opportunity to work with local universities and communities to explore whether lessons learned here can now be applied in Indonesia.”
Professor Mel Austen
Professor Mel Austen
Professor Melanie Austen, who leads GCRF’s Blue Communities programme and its work with coastal communities in Southeast Asia, said:
“A great aspect of this project is that it enables us to apply ecosystem service research approaches and capability that, through Blue Communities, we have already helped to develop in Southeast Asia. That project has identified the impact of marine plastic, and the most effective ways to tackle its spread, as a research gap and this new collaboration can begin to address that.”
Sue Jobling, Professor of Environmental Toxicology at Brunel University London and the project’s Principal Investigator, said:

“We want to help create two areas that are good news stories for humanity and the environment. Two hope spots, where our methodologies, tools and approaches can be developed, tested and then replicated in other parts of the country, and indeed in other parts of the world. It will be great to be a part of a team who are dedicated to helping the Indonesian Government manage its burgeoning plastics problem.”
Jo Ruxton, producer of the award-winning documentary A Plastic Ocean and founder of the charity Plastic Oceans UK, who will be using their expertise in behaviour change to help address public attitudes to plastic waste, added:

“Plastic waste in the environment is a global problem but there are places where the problem is far worse and sadly, Indonesia is one of these. Lack of waste management infrastructure and the population’s dependence on single use plastic has seen Indonesia’s rivers literally choked with plastic waste. With over 17,000 islands, Indonesia’s coastline is then subjected to plastic waste washing up from the ocean. This pollution is made even worse by developed countries sending their waste plastic to be reprocessed, which often is just dumped and burnt.”

Academic partners

  • Brunel University London (lead)
  • University of Leeds
  • University of Oxford
  • Asian Institute of Technology
  • University of Esa Unggul
  • Sepuluh Nopember Institute of Technology

  • Bandung Institute of Technology (ITB)
  • Universitas Airlangga
  • Udayana University
  • The Indonesian Institute of Science
  • The Indian Institute of Science
  • University of Vienna

Partner organisations and collaborators

  • Mura Technology Limited
  • Yayasan Green Books Indonesia
  • Plastic Oceans
  • Waste4Change
  • Coordinating Ministry of Maritime Affairs and
  • Investments(CMMAI)- Indonesian Government
  • Pasuran Regional Environment Agency
  • Indonesian Waste Platform
  • Indonesia Solid Waste Association (INSWA)

  • Waste and Resources Action Partnership (WRAP)
  • (GIZ) Deutsche Gessellschaft fur Internationale Zusammenarbeit German GmbH
  • (Indonesian Waste Collector and Scavenger Association) (APPI)
  • Precious Plastic Ciledug
  • PARAGITA Foundation
  • INAPLAS– Indonesia Olefin, Aromatic and Plastic Industry Association
  • Indonesian Ministry of the Environment and Forestry Department of Solid Waste Management
  • International Solid Waste Association ISWA
  • Environmental Agency of Bali Province
  • Environmental Regency of Jembrana Regency

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Fisherman casting his net

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Building capacity for sustainable interactions with marine ecosystems for the benefit of coastal communities in Southeast Asia.

The GCRF Blue Communities programme will support initiatives that promote the sustainable use of marine resources.

International Marine Litter Research Unit

Marine litter is a global environmental problem with items of debris now contaminating habitats from the poles to the equator, from the sea surface to the deep sea.

Furthering our understanding of litter on the environment and defining solutions

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