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Vote Green! Can Indonesia’s Elections Be Environmentally Friendly?

Written by : Nasya Putri Benita and Eunike


Pengendara sepeda motor melintasi baliho calon anggota legislatif di Jalan Laksamana Malahayati, Jakarta Timur, Selasa (9/1/2024). Masa kampanye digunakan oleh calon legislatif untuk menjaring suara dengan berbagai cara, salah satunya dengan memasang baliho di tempat-tempat strategis.Picture by : Agus Susanto for Kompas


Unfolding the new year of 2024 couldn't be more astoundingly anticipated. The presidential election has become the talk of the nation which raises excitement, high spirits, and an overall togetherness in such a pivotal event. Electoral candidates have displayed uncountable banners and posters to further expand their visions and missions throughout the nation. People are enlivened and made aware of the campaign through these campaign props. However, the excessive amount of banners and posters poses a major issue towards the environment.  Most banners are constructed of non-biodegradable materials, which require hundreds of years to be disposed of. This raises a question about the complexity of the country's waste problem. How would Indonesia handle this? What are the applicable laws in combating this issue? 


The new year of 2024 has not only unfolded a new chapter for each individual but it has welcomed a pivotal event for Indonesia as a country.  At last, the time has set its foot for Indonesian citizens to voice their democratic rights to elect their regional and national leaders. These electoral candidates have been using various strategies to win votes, from the use of social media, and television, to the eye-catching banners displayed on streets and bustling city areas. While these colorful banners may grab attention, they raise significant environmental concerns. The majority of banners are made from non-biodegradable materials, taking hundreds of years to decompose. Consequently, this poses an issue surrounding the nation’s waste problem and its complexity. 

Indonesia has been labeled as the second-largest contributor to plastic waste globally after China. Undoubtedly, this presents a severe challenge for the nation in terms of managing waste. The high amount of non-biodegradable waste poses a persistent threat as it accumulates over time, which increases the cycle of environmental degradation. As more and more waste continues to surge rapidly, the presidential election of 2024 has its drawbacks in terms of creating excessive waste.

According to the General Election Commissions (KPU), there are more than 9000 legislative candidates participating in this year’s Indonesian elections. This translates to thousand tons of kilograms of potential waste, further worsening the country’s already waste problem. National data predicts a 76% increase in waste generation by 2025, highlighting the urgency of addressing this issue. Most displayed banners are made out of flexi that contain Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) which is a highly difficult material to be recycled. The only solution to dispose of the banners is to burn them, however, it would result in hazardous emissions that would harm Indonesia by raising air pollution as well as leading to medical concerns and various health concerns such as respiratory issues. 

Campaign waste is a problem that is found in not not only Indonesia, but also other countries. However, some countries such as Singapore have managed to establish a policy to counter this problem. According to Singapore’s Election Department,  during the campaign period, any posters and banners promoting a candidate must be displayed in accordance with the guidelines specified in the Returning Officer's permit for such displays. Singapore has regulated its own policy in waste disposal through the National Environment Agency. Toxic waste such as PVC will receive a particular disposal such as incineration that is controlled under the Environmental Public Health Regulations.

Indonesia has not yet made a specific regulation addressing the waste caused by the campaign props. While there might not be specific regulations about campaign waste, the general waste management regulations emphasize this particular issue. For instance, The Jakarta Provincial Government Regulation No. 4 of 2019 stipulates the regulation that imposes fines up to Rp. 500.000 on individuals caught deliberately littering, including throwing rubbish into rivers, canals, roads, parks, or other public areas. This aimed at discouraging people from carelessly discarding campaign materials or any waste. Additionally, in West Java, the Provincial Regulation No. 12 of 2010, stipulates stricter penalties, stating that anyone found disposing of rubbish in inappropriate places or environment media could face imprisonment for up to three months or a fine of up to Rp. 50 Million. These regulations are Indonesia’s earnest response in regard to waste management.

Within the lens of International Law, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), states that an estimated 11.2 billion tonnes of solid waste are collected annually worldwide, and approximately 5% of greenhouse gas emissions are caused by the decomposition of the organic portion of solid waste. Globally, 11.2 billion tons of solid waste are reportedly collected annually. The UNEP proposes solutions such as minimization of waste and recycling them into reusable products that could be of use, resulting in a significant reduction of resource usage. Aside from the UNEP, the United Nations management policy has primarily reiterated the 3R concept (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle) to combat waste management including Indonesia’s campaign props. 

To respond to this, there have been a few proposed solutions for processing waste in Indonesia. The Bogor City Ciliwung naturalization task force has collected campaign props which have been processed into planks and rafters. During the 2024 election quiet period, campaign props gathered from the aftermath of raids in several Bogor City neighborhoods were recycled into functional and commercially valuable goods like boards and rafters. Additionally, at the Mekarwangi Reuse, Reduce and Recycle (TPS3R) Waste Processing Site in Bogor City, West Java, the Bogor City Government has started recycling campaign props (APK) waste into building materials like paving blocks. The absorption well in Bekasi City will then be constructed using this building material to create the ground-planted absorption well's frame or foundation. In the future, the wood and blocks generated by this process can also be directly molded from waste APK, aluminum, and plastic to create paving blocks. 

Ultimately, more positive alternatives are being applied to combat the potential environmental damage caused by the 2024 presidential and legislative candidate election. Although Indonesia has its legal framework governing environmental protection, international environmental law emphasizes the interconnectedness of nations and their environmental responsibilities. Unfortunately, campaign material disposal frequently deviates from these rules, endangering human health and the environment. In the end, political candidates and government officials must work together to prioritize environmental sustainability and ethical waste management techniques to address the environmental impact of campaign materials. Indonesia can endeavor to mitigate the environmental effects of election campaigns and promote a cleaner, healthier environment for its people by enacting regulations that are effective and encouraging eco-friendly alternatives.

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