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Former lawyer uses power of petition to help change laws and spark waves of bans: 'What if the petition succeeds?'

"What are we going to do then?"

"What are we going to do then?"

Photo Credit: Plasticdiet Indonesia

For Indonesian activist Tiza Mafira, it all started with a 2013 petition pushing for a one or two cent fee on plastic bags. Today, she's a driving force in the movement against single-use plastics in her country, Yale Environment 360 reported.

Mafira is the co-founder of Plasticdiet Indonesia, an organization that has been working with cities and districts across Indonesia since 2016 to draft plastic bag bans. Today, more than 100 of the country's approximately 500 local governments now enforce single-use plastics bans. 

Talking to Yale Environment 360, the former lawyer said that when her original petition, which she organized with friends, got 70,000 signatures, they thought, "What if the petition succeeds? What are we going to do then?" She goes on to say that the answer was, "We push for stronger legislation."

Ultimately, the petition pushed 27 cities to try out three-month trials of plastic bag charges. After the trial ended, one of the cities, Banjarmasin, decided to ban plastic bags altogether. Mafira and her crew tried to replicate their initial success in Banjarmasin, and their work eventually prompted other cities to follow suit.

Indonesia is drowning in plastic, and according to Mafira, the problem has gotten worse in the last few decades. 

In fact, the country produces over 3.5 million tons of unmanaged plastic waste each year, according to the UN Environment Program. Much of that ends up in the sea, and around 10 billion plastic bags are released into the local environment every year. 

This kind of pollution is more than an eyesore. The toxic chemicals in plastics can leach out into the environment, entering our soil and water. Some of these chemicals are known as endocrine-disrupting compounds and can harm our natural hormonal systems.

Plastics in the environment can also hurt animals. Over one million marine animals die each year due to plastic pollution, according to the Sea Turtle Conservancy. 

Plasticdiet Indonesia joins a number of activists and governments across the world fighting against plastic pollution. For instance, California recently banned plastic produce bags from grocery stores. In 2022, India banned a selection of single-use plastics.

You can do your part by investing in reusable products like metal razors, water bottles, shampoo bars, dissolvable dishwasher/laundry pods, and non-plastic sandwich bags.

Mafira's vision going forward is to help drive regulations on other types of single-use plastics.

"Now we want to expand beyond bags to other plastics — straws, cutlery, sachets, and Styrofoam," she told Yale Environment 360. "And the next industries are food and beverage and consumer products. The big vision we want to see is less oil production because less plastic is being provided to the consumer."

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