Indonesia’s second largest city, Surabaya, has just made it possible to exchange plastic waste for bus fares. To receive the bus fare, riders need only recycle plastics at one of the designated bus stops or recycling centres throughout the city. Alongside reducing plastics in landfills and the ocean, the government launched this innovative incentive scheme with a secondary objective of reducing private vehicle usage in the city - which accounts for 75% of the city's traffic.
Indonesia produces approximately 187 million tonnes of plastic waste annually, and is the second biggest marine polluter after China. Accordingly, the government, private sector, and civil society must all take drastic action to protect their exceptional terrestrial and marine resources, while also providing benefits to the citizenry. While this bus scheme only targets urban dwellers of Surabaya, it could be an important piece of a patchwork of innovative solutions to address nationwide plastic pollution through beneficial social programs. If this pilot program becomes popular with riders, will other cities and nations adopt similar schemes? Could the economics of such incentives become troublesome in other cities and at larger scales? Furthermore, what unforseen social consequences might this incentive create?
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