27 June 2018 - Johnny Langenheim - In a country of more than 17000 islands, seaweed might be the ideal raw material for a bio-plastics revolution.
Indonesia produces more marine plastic pollution than any other country except China. This is perhaps unsurprising: the world’s biggest archipelago is also its fourth most populous. Limited income and cash flow means that poorer communities rely on cheap single-use plastics like bags, water cups and shampoo sachets. Waste management systems are rudimentary and each year millions of tonnes of trash ends up in waterways and eventually the ocean.
Last year Indonesia pledged US$1 billion to cut its marine waste by 70% by 2025. The country will have to tackle the issue on multiple fronts if this ambitious target is to be met. Besides changing consumer habits and improving waste management infrastructure, industry needs to move away from single use plastics and quickly introduce and scale up biodegradable alternatives.
This is where seaweed comes in. Indonesia’s seaweed production is second only to China and is increasing by an estimated 30% a year. Indonesia is also the world’s biggest producer of red seaweed, a variety that’s ideal for creating bio-plastics and packaging.