Activists Protest Unilever's Massive Plastic Sachet Waste Problem

15 June 2022 22:52 WIB

TEMPO.CO, Jakarta - Environmental activists on Wednesday, June 15, rallied in front of the Indonesia Convention Exhibition (ICE), calling for a halt to the production of plastic sachet packaging. The protest was executed during Unilever Indonesia's annual general shareholder's meeting (RUPS) in the ICE building. 

Members of the Zero Waste Indonesia Alliance (AZWI) brought mannequins covered with plastic sachet packaging produced by Unilever which was collected from rivers and beaches in Indonesia. 

A report by the World Economic Forum revealed that 16 percent of plastic waste found across Indonesia’s oceans and natural environments were plastic sachets. 

Executive Director of Wetlands Observation and Conservation Ecology (ECOTON) Prigi Arisandi said that the audits of brands in the Nusantara Expedition found Unilever consistently on the top three list of major brands that are polluters. The expedition was held for 300 days across a number of rivers in Indonesia. 

Apart from auditing the brands, ECOTON - which also joins AZWI - had documented microplastic pollutants in rivers. 

"Most of the microplastic contamination is filaments that have been fragmented from plastic films and sachet packaging," said Arisandi. 

On Monday, June 13, ECOTON campaign coordinator Daru Setyorini said Unilever-produced plastic waste was the most discovered during the brand audit at Ciliwung. He said sachet packages are a residual type of waste that cannot be recycled and pollute the environment.

“Out of the 600 sachets we found, Unilever sachets were the one often found which was followed by Wings and Indofood. Unilever, Wings, and Indofood need to take responsibility and clean up sachet package wastes that are polluting Ciliwung,” said Daru Setyorini. 

Previously, Unilever committed to ensuring that plastic waste, including sachet packages, can be reused, recycled, and composted in 2025. The company has also joined the legally binding Global Plastics Treaty, under which UNEP agrees to take responsibility for the entire plastic life cycle.

Moreover, Greenpeace Indonesia urban campaigner Muharram Atha Rasyadi said activists had requested numerous times for Unilever, as well as Environment and Forestry Ministry (KLHK), to share their waste reduction roadmap. However, none have complied. 

“But to this day, there are no documents that had been published publicly,” said Muharram, “I’m not surprised if Unilever proudly exhibits recycling of chemicals and RDF in cement plants which is a false solution in its sustainability plan.”

AZWI strongly criticizes Unilever for continuously prompting the use of sachet plastic packages in Southeast Asia and India and defining it as policies that ‘accommodates the middle-to-lower class.’  

“Our research with the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA) last year showed that chemical recycling in Indonesia that Unilever promotes does not work, their plastic sachets cannot be recycled sustainably or safely,” said AZWI coordinator Rahyang Nusantara. 

Rahyang said Unilever should stop sending their waste sachets to RDF (refuse-derived fuel). "Because this technology also pollutes waterways and air quality, and can exacerbate climate change," he said.

NADIYAH DZAKIRAH | TD

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