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Indonesian mosques launch Ramadan anti-plastic drive

Ulema Council, Greenpeace team up to fight pollution to mark holy month and World Environment Day

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Indonesian mosques launch Ramadan anti-plastic drive

Indonesian Muslims gather at the Baiturrahman Raya mosque in Banda Aceh to offer Eid al-Fitr prayers in this June 25, 2017 file image. Greenpeace Indonesia and the Indonesian Ulema Council, launched a campaign on June 4 to reduce the use of single-use plastic. (Photo by Ahmad Ariska/AFP)

A leading environmental organization is using the Islamic holy month of Ramadan as a platform in a campaign against the use of plastic in Indonesian mosques.

Greenpeace Indonesia, and the Indonesian Ulema Council, launched the campaign this week to mark World Environment Day, on June 5, at Pondok Indah Grand Mosque in South Jakarta. 

"Plastic waste is a major issue in Indonesia. In 2015, Indonesia ranked second highest in the amount of waste produced," Muharram Atha Rasyadi, a Greenpeace campaigner, told ucanews.com. 

He was referring to a study published in the journal Science in February that year saying Indonesia's, 250 million people, produced 3.2 million tons of plastic waste in 2010, some 1.29 million of which ended up in the ocean.

The figures placed the country second to China that contributed 8.8 million tons of waste, 27 percent of the world total.

"People tend to consume more during Ramadan. Fast-breaking meals in plastic containers are held at mosques. This adds to the amount of plastic waste," Rasyadi said.

Fatah, who manages Pondok Indah Grand Mosque, said the mosque produces a lot of plastic waste during Ramadan.

"A lot is produced and removed every day during Ramadan," said Fatah, who like many Indonesians only goes by one name, adding that the mosque usually gets rid of garbage every four days.

Rasyadi said the campaign, encouraging Muslims to use glass or China tableware for religious events and raising awareness among Muslims about environmental protection, would focus on Jakarta and Bandung to begin with.

Last year, Jakarta produced 7,000 tons of waste each day. Fifteen percent, or 1,050 tons, of that figure was plastic waste. 

In the same year, Bandung produced 1,500 tons of waste, with a similar percentage of plastic waste. 

"People are 'trapped' in a single-use habit. They use single-use plastic such as bottles, bags, straws and containers without thinking of the consequences on nature," Rasyadi said, adding that plastic waste is choking the country's seas and ruining fish stocks.

In 2017, the government committed to reducing marine plastic debris by 70 percent by the end of 2025.

The year previously, it launched its "Indonesia Free Waste 2020" campaign and began a trial policy to reduce plastic waste by instructing retailers to charge customers 200 rupiah (less than 1 US cent) for each plastic bag used.

"We want the government to issue such policies targeting retailers. We need to reduce plastic waste at source," Rasyadi said.

Hayu S. Prabowo, chairman of the Ulema Council's Environment and Natural Resources Preservation Desk, said Islam does teach the need to care for nature.

"Muslims are not only told to maintain a good relationship with God and others but also with nature so that it brings benefits to them," he said.

"A simple way they can do is not to use single-use plastic," he said.

"We want to work together with Greenpeace Indonesia to maintain the campaign," Fatah the mosque manager said.

Jesuit Father Alexius Andang Listya Binawan, episcopal vicar of Jakarta Archdiocese, which introduced an anti-plastic campaign in 2013, said there should be no let up in raising awareness about how harmful plastic is to the environment. 

"A reduction in single-use plastic must be put into practice immediately," he said.

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