“Microplastics are found in almost all Indonesian rivers, only in the Way Sekampung water source, and the upstream area of Bengkulu province, to be precise in Rindu Hati Village, we did not find microplastics,” said Rafika Aprilianti, further this Ecoton researcher explained that microplastics in river water will threaten human health. because 84% of the raw material for drinking water for the Indonesian population comes from surface water, efforts are needed to control the source of microplastics that are discharged into rivers from plastic waste and industrial waste, especially paper and textile factories.

Towards the end of 2022 environmental problems in Indonesia, one that is often of concern to the public is plastic waste in Indonesia. Evidenced by the discovery of microplastic particles from several components of life, from air, water, fish and even microplastics have been identified in human blood, breast milk and lungs. However, these problems have not stopped plastic production activities, which are still ongoing, there is even another WTE (Waste to Energy) problem, namely converting plastic waste into energy but this can release microplastics along with plastic toxic materials into the environment.

Data from the Nusantara River Expedition Team (ESN) 2022 which tested the microplastic content in 68 nationally strategic rivers, showed that 5 provinces had the highest contamination of microplastic particles, namely East Java Province found 6.36 particles/liter, North Sumatra Province found 5.20 particles/liter liter, West Sumatra Province found 5.08 particles/liter, Bangka Belitung Province 4.97 particles/liter, Central Sulawesi Province 4.17 particles/liter. The following is the accumulation of microplastic test data in Indonesian rivers spread across 24 provinces in Indonesia.

Graph 1. Identification of Microplastics in Rivers in Indonesia in 2022


Graph 2. Percentage of Microplastic Types in Indonesian Rivers in 2022


River water has a vital role in the life of everyday living things as a habitat for various kinds of organisms. The condition of rivers in Indonesia is still considered bad because there is a lot of plastic waste found on the banks and water bodies. This is the source of microplastic contamination, namely plastic particles less than 5 mm in size. Graph 2 explains that microplastic contamination in Indonesian rivers in 2022 is dominated by:

  1. Fiber (Fibre) 49.20%, the source is from the degradation of synthetic fabrics due to household activities washing cloth, laundry and also textile industry waste. Fiber is also caused by fabric waste scattered in the environment which is degraded due to natural processes;
  2. Film/Filament 25.60%, comes from the degradation of single-use plastic waste (plastic bags, plastic bottles, and Single layer (SL) plastic packaging);
  3. Fragment 18.60%, comes from the degradation of single-use plastic waste of the type (ML multilayer sachet packaging, bottle caps, shampoo bottles and soap);

Based on data from the 2020 PUPR Ministry managed by FITRA (Indonesian Forum for Budget Transparency), stated that waste management in Indonesia is not evenly distributed, regulations related to waste management at the regional level are still minimal. Out of 514 regencies and cities in Indonesia, only 45% already have Garbage Regulations and Garbage Retribution Regulations. Meanwhile, President Jokowi asked for waste management to be an important program to be integrated and systemic. There must be community and private involvement as well as synergy between the Central Government and Regional Governments.

Waste management is still carried out traditionally using a land field pattern. President Jokowi said that this pattern was very dangerous because it only disposed of, transported and stockpiled at the Final Disposal Site (TPA). In addition, current waste utilization is still very small, only around 7.5% of the total waste that accumulates every day.

The problems caused by microplastics are bigger than usually thought, so they are considered dangerous and threaten the survival of living things. Based on its components, plastic is composed of main compounds including styrene, vinyl chloride and bisphenol A. If the body is exposed to these compounds, it will cause irritation or respiratory disorders, disrupt endocrine hormones and have the potential to cause cancer. Additional compounds that are mixed into plastic include phthalates, fire retardants, and alkalyphenols that can also cause endocrine activity disturbances that can impact fertility. Compounds from plastic have activity to interfere with the hormone estrogen so that if it enters the body it can mimic the hormone estrogen. These compounds can reduce levels of plasma and testicular testosterone, plasma LH, and also cause abnormal morphology such as a decrease in the number of Leydig cells in male biota.

The picture showing plastics waste leak and founded in the river

The increasing waste generation indicates that a lot of plastic waste is leaking into the environment, landfills are overloaded in every region and there is microplastic contamination in 68 Indonesian rivers spread across 24 provinces on 9 islands in Indonesia. It is time for the central and regional governments to immediately make policies and strategies to solve the problem of waste and waste management in Indonesia so that plastic waste does not leak into the environment which is the forerunner of microplastics, the government can make the following recommendations:

  1. Establish quality standards or threshold values for microplastics in Indonesian river waters, as an implementation of attachment 6 of Government Regulation Number 22 of 2021 concerning Implementation of Environmental Protection and Management (PPLH) which states that river quality standards must be “Zero Waste”;
  2. Performing environmental restoration and cleaning up of plastic waste that spills into the environment, which is the source of microplastics;
  3. Expand Regulations on the limitation and reduction of Single-Use Plastics in Indonesia, and strictly prohibit the use (crese bags, Sachets, Styrofoam, Bottled drinking water/AMDK, diapers and straws) in shopping centers, markets, supermarkets, retail spread across each area;
  4. Implementing the Zero Waste City concept in waste management in each region by supporting the segregation of waste from sources so that the waste load at landfills is reduced and plastic waste does not leak into the environment;
  5. Increase the waste management program budget in each region, provide and increase drop point waste disposal facilities (sachets, diapers, organic and inorganic) at waste generation points scattered in the environment and increase TPS 3R in each area;
  6. Encouraging manufacturers producing plastic waste, especially sachets, to immediately design a roadmap document for waste reduction and carry out tips for reducing packaging products that have the potential to pollute the environment with regulatory guidelines for Minister of Environment and Forestry Regulation 75 of 2019 concerning a roadmap for reducing waste;
  7. Encouraging manufacturers that produce plastic waste to carry out EPR efforts by cleaning up their product waste that has spilled into the environment and prioritizing their environmental CSR for handling plastic waste;
  8. It is time for the government to develop program innovations and infrastructure technology for cutting-edge and non-emission waste management in handling plastic waste in the environment and rejecting the RDF (Refuse-derived fuel) solution, which is fuel derived from waste or waste through a homogenized process (pellets, briquettes). and counts) because:
  • endangering the environment and human health, because RDF burning produces toxic chemical compounds of dioxins, heavy metals, organic pollutants and fine particles into the air which cause health problems such as cancer, reproductive problems, and hormone disorders;
  • not a renewable energy source, expensive and inefficient, because burning RDF produces little energy with high production costs;

Bibliography :



December 28, 2022

Ecoton Foundation legal & advocacy division

– Aziz, S.H

– Muhammad Kholid Basyaiban, S.H

(Ecoton Foundation Research & Education Division)

– Muhammad Alaika Rahmatulloh, S.Si

– Rafika Aprilianti, S.Si

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