Indonesia's seaweed revolution.


Indonesia is a country with more than 17000 islands and with over 34000 miles of coastline. Could Indonesia be the brewing ground for a seaweed-based bioplastic?

Source: The Guardian Environment Blog. An Indonesian woman harvests seaweed at her farm off the beach in Nusa Dua, Bali, Indonesia. Photograph: Ed Wray/AP

Indonesia produces the second most amount of marine plastic pollution in the world. Since Indonesia is still a developing country, many poorer communities still rely on cheap single-use plastics such as bags, utensils, soap sachets, and etc. However, last year, the Indonesian government has pledged US$ 1 billion to attempt to cut their marine waste by up to 70% by 2025. Besides changing consumer's habits, Indonesia must also find alternatives to single-use plastics. 

The answer could be seaweed. Indonesia is only second to China in seaweed production. Indonesia is also the world's biggest producer of red seaweed, a specific species that is ideal for manufacturing bio-plastics. At the moment, corn, sugarcane, and cassava are the primary sources to create bioplastics. However, a researcher in the Indonesian Ministry of Marine Affairs and Fisheries claims that seaweed is in fact much more sustainable. 

One of the advantages of using seaweed is that it grows in the ocean and does not require fresh water or chemicals. Additionally, investing in seaweed will also reduce the necessity to invest in land and therefore reducing the risk of huge deforestation catastrophes. 

As of right now, seaweed-based packaging is barely a sustainable business or industry. However, many small startups in Indonesia are slowly discovering new ways to produce seaweed-based products more efficiently.  

With more research and development, Indonesia is hoping that one day, seaweed-based packaging and bioplastic may have the potential of going mainstream. 

See you next week.