8 December 2022, JAKARTA - Indonesian NGO Nexus3 and Czech environmental NGO Arnika are calling for a global treaty on plastics pollution, an international legally binding instrument to address the use and release of hazardous chemicals in Indonesia and around the world. Their joint call follows a new study revealing the presence of toxic substances in ash, soil, and egg samples from Karawang village in West Java. The NGOs decided to focus on the village of Karawang because plastic waste and old tyres are burned as fuel in lime production, which harms the environment and human health.
In 2021, experts working for Nexus3 and Arnika collected and analyzed ash samples from waste incineration, soil samples, and eggs from free-range chickens near the lime kilns. The study’s results confirmed serious environmental and food chain contamination in Karawang with dangerous chemicals known as persistent organic pollutants that are intentionally added to plastics or substances that are generated during plastic waste incineration, such as dioxins .
The level of dioxin contamination of eggs from Karawang is amongst the highest ever measured in Asia and globally . “Dioxin concentrations in two pooled free-range chicken egg samples collected in Karawang exceeded the EU standard by 71 and 43-fold, respectively. Higher levels of dioxins in free-range chicken eggs from Asia were observed only in Bien Hoa, a former US Army base in Vietnam contaminated by Agent Orange, and the East Javanese village of Tropodo, where plastic waste was used as fuel in tofu production facilities,” said Mr. Jindrich Petrlik, Program Director of Arnika - Toxic and Waste Programme.
Almost all plastic is made from oil-based substances and chemicals that are added to improve the material's properties. This composition makes recycling difficult, and over the last 20 years only 9% of plastic waste has been recycled globally, with Indonesia's figure standing at 11%. An alternative way of “recycling” plastic is through energy recovery, simply burning. Open burning and incineration of plastic waste is widespread, especially in areas lacking waste management services.
The imperfect management of plastic waste highlights the need for international regulation. Ms Yuyun Ismawati, Senior Advisor of the Nexus3 Foundation who attended the first negotiation meeting to develop a Plastic Treaty, an international legally binding instrument against plastic pollution, commented: “Plastic is essentially carbon plus chemicals. The chemicals will be bound until the end of life of the plastic products. These chemicals are mainly hazardous and persistent. Therefore, the mandate to develop a Plastic Treaty should cover the whole lifecycle of plastics.”
“At the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee to develop an international legally binding instrument on plastic pollution in Punta del Este, many delegates highlighted the importance of addressing health impacts and the toxic chemicals of plastics. The narrative of the Plastic Treaty has shifted from the downstream issues, such as waste management, to the upstream issues, such as controlling the production of plastics and banning toxic chemicals used in plastics production,” she added. Civil society organizations play an important role in moving the negotiations forward by sharing data, findings, and voices from the ground.
Disclaimer: This press release was produced with the financial support of the European Union. Its content is the sole responsibility of the Arnika Association and Nexus3 Foundation and does not necessarily reflect the views of the European Union. The project ‘Transparent Pollution Control in Indonesia’ is supported by the European Union, and by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic under the Transition Promotion Programme.
Nexus3 Foundation is a non-profit NGO that works with all interest groups to promote protective measures for the public, especially vulnerable populations, from the impact of development on their health and environment towards a just, non-toxic and sustainable future. For more information visit: https://www.nexus3foundation.org
Arnika Association is a Czech non-profit organization that has been uniting people striving for a better environment since 2001. Our mission is to protect nature and a healthy environment for future generations both in Czechia and abroad. For more information visit: https://arnika.org/
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Further background information:
 You can access the entire study here: https://arnika.org/en/publications/pops-contamination-caused-by-use-of-plastic-waste-as-fuel-at-locations-in-indonesia
 Petrlik, Jindrich, et al. "Monitoring dioxins and PCBs in eggs as sensitive indicators for environmental pollution and global contaminated sites and recommendations for reducing and controlling releases and exposure." Emerging Contaminants 8 (2022): 254e279.