Surabaya (VOA) —
Around 30 students and activists from ECOTON rallied in front of the Grahadi state building, in Surabaya, Wednesday (23/8), to urge East Java Governor Khofifah Indar Parawansa to take action against industries that are still importing plastic waste from abroad. This is because plastic waste causes high pollution of dioxin compounds which endanger public health.
ECOTON spokesperson, Muhammad Kholid Basyaiban, said the call was issued after the ECOTON team found residents who run the tofu industry in two villages in Sidoarjo were still sorting and burning imported plastic waste on land around residents’ settlements. They burn the waste as fuel for the tofu cooking process.
“Our research and our latest investigation in 2023, our findings show that the water and air in the Tropodo area are still high in microplastics. And it is suspected that the dioxins will also increase due to burning activities after inspections in 2019, in the Tropodo area they are still burning imported plastic (waste) for fuel (making) tofu,” said Kholid.
The process of burning plastic waste in a tofu factory furnace in Tropodo, Sidoarjo, February 6 2023. (Photo: Petrus Riski/VOA) According to data compiled by four environmental NGOs, namely IPEN, NEXUS3, ARNIKA, and ECOTON in December 2019, burning imported waste making these two villages the second highest emitters of dioxin pollution in Southeast Asia after Vietnam,
The study stated that dioxin concentrations of 200 pg TEQ g-1 fat or 93 times higher than the safe limit set in Indonesia, were found in chicken egg samples taken around the tofu factory location in Sidoarjo. This amount is slightly lower than the dioxins found in chicken eggs taken from the Bien Hoa site in Vietnam which was contaminated with the historical Agent Orange toxin.
Dioxins are dangerous chemical compounds produced by burning plastic waste which can cause various health problems, such as cancer and reproductive problems when exposed for a long period of time. Kholid also urged the government’s promise to provide alternative fuels, special wood-fired stoves, to the tofu and cracker industries which still use plastic waste as their production fuel.
“Hopefully, the promises made to the (business) owner know, to the waste separator regarding alternative jobs other than sorting waste. Continue to promise to provide special wood blowers, and promise to provide wood fuel subsidies to tofu centers in Sidoarjo, the hope is fulfilled in 2023,” said Kholid
A number of students and activists from Ecoton rallied in Surabaya, East Java to urge East Java Governor Khofifah Indar Parawansa to address the problem of plastic waste pollution in East Java, Wednesday, August 23, 2023. (Photo: Petrus Riski/VOA)
East Java Governor Khofifah was not present when the demonstration took place. The National Unity and Politics Agency (Bakesbangpol) who met the protesters promised to forward their demands to the Governor.
During approximately 45 years of activities to sort imported plastic waste in East Java, people have indirectly been hoarding dioxins in their environment. Dioxins, according to Thara Bening Sandrina, a student concerned with the environment in East Java, not only contaminate soil and water, but also pollute the air, which is already highly polluted.
Dioxin and microplastic contaminants, said Thara, would endanger human life, which depends on drinking water and agricultural and fishing activities from river water. In fact, most of the river water in Java is heavily polluted by microplastics.
As a result of these problems, people cannot enjoy clean water.
“The water we use as a source of drinking water has been mixed with heavy metals, mixed with the waste from the paper factory earlier, and also the air. Our air is polluted by dioxins, benzene, and also microplastic pollution,” said Thara.
Thara urged Governor Khofifah to act decisively by not allowing the industry to dump waste into rivers and openly dispose of imported plastic and paper waste around residents’ settlements. (pr/ft)