Plastic Marine Waste and its Potential for Indonesian Indigenous Communities


  • Jacob Wood James Cook University Singapore
  • Swathi Paturi James Cook University Singapore
  • Prerna Puri James Cook University Singapore
  • Emil Senf Jakobsen James Cook University Singapore
  • Sumanth Shankar James Cook University Singapore
  • Pawel Zejden James Cook University Singapore
  • Simona Azzali James Cook University Singapore



Indigenous people, sovereignty, waste management, circular economy, plastic marine pollution, artistic recycling, tropics


The management of marine waste is an increasingly complex issue facing the world today. Our study provides an interesting take on the issue of marine waste by examining how Indonesian indigenous communities can deal with plastic marine pollution. While there is an obvious need for mitigating plastic use, for effective legislative policies regulating plastic waste management, and to do more to develop sustainable waste management practices; there are also opportunities for indigenous communities to take an innovative approach by using plastic waste in a manner that drives economic development from both non-market and neoliberal theoretical ideologies. As part of this assessment, alongside Indonesian examples we include examples of plastic re-use by indigenous communities of the Philippines and Australia. Moreover, our study highlights some of the areas in which this is being done in the fields of art and infrastructure development.

Author Biographies

Jacob Wood, James Cook University Singapore

Dr Jacob Wood is Associate Dean of Research for the College of Business, Law and Governance, James Cook University, Australia. He is also the Director of the Centre for International Trade and Business in Asia (CITBA) and an Associate Professor of Business at James Cook University Singapore. His research interests are non-tariff barriers, the WTO Dispute Settlement Mechanism and Sustainable Transportation Development. Dr Wood has been published in various outlets including the Journal of Cleaner Production, Sustainability, Scientometrics, Economies, and the Journal of Asia-Pacific Economic Literature among others.

Swathi Paturi, James Cook University Singapore

Swathi Paturi is a CITBA Research Fellow at James Cook University Singapore. She has previously pursued Bachelor’s courses in Mechanical Engineering at Waikato University, New Zealand and the University of Cincinnati, USA, where she served as the International Ambassador from 2015-2016. Her research interests include food sustainability, agribusiness, agriculture technology and sustainability.

Prerna Puri, James Cook University Singapore

MBA student.

Emil Senf Jakobsen, James Cook University Singapore

MBA student.

Sumanth Shankar, James Cook University Singapore

MBA student.

Pawel Zejden, James Cook University Singapore

MBA student.

Simona Azzali, James Cook University Singapore

Dr Simona Azzali is a lecturer in urban planning and design at the Singapore campus of James Cook University where she coordinates the Master of Planning and Urban Design and teaches and runs studios on disaster management, urban research methods, planning and sustainable urbanism. She is a member of Lab, and JCU’s Centre for International Trade and Business in Asia (CITBA). Dr Simona Azzali is passionate about cities and a strong advocate for a people-oriented and participatory design approaches to build better cities by design.


AMAN (Aliansi Masyarakat Adat Nusantara) (2012, November). Indonesia: Country technical note on indigenous peoples’ issues. International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD).

Anderson, R. B., Macaulay, S. W., Kayseas, B., & Hindle, K. G. (2008). Indigenous Communities, Entrepreneurship, and Economic Development in the New Economy. Non-Market Entrepreneurship: Interdisciplinary Approaches, 89–123.

Bakir, A., Rowland, S. J., & Thompson, R. C. (2014). Enhanced desorption of persistent organic pollutants from microplastics under simulated physiological conditions. Environmental Pollution, 185, 16–23.

Beaumont, N. J., Aanesen, M., Austen, M. C., Börger, T., Clark, J. R., Cole, M., Hooper, T., Lindeque, P.K., Pascoe, C., & Wyles, K. J. (2019). Global ecological, social and economic impacts of marine plastic. Marine Pollution Bulletin, 142, 189–195.

Bendix, A. (2019, March 6). A major chemical company is building roads made of recycled plastic. They've already stopped 220,000 pounds of waste from ending up in landfills. Business Insider.

Berger, D. N. (2019). The Indigenous World 2019.

Board, J. (2019, July 7). The Indonesian village being buried by the developed world's waste. Channel News Asia.

Boucher, J., & Billard, G. (2019). The challenges of measuring plastic pollution. Field Actions Science Reports, 19, 68–75.

Butler, J., Gunn, R., Berry, H., Wagey, G., Hardesty, B., & Wilcox, C. (2013). A Value Chain Analysis of ghost nets in the Arafura Sea: Identifying trans-boundary stakeholders, intervention points and livelihood trade-offs. Journal of Environmental Management, 123, 14–25.

Chandran, R. (2019, June 13). 'Too many' maps slow return of Indonesia's indigenous land. Reuters.

Chermack, T. J., & Passmore, D. L. (2005). Using journals and databases in research. In R.A. Swanson & E.F. Holton (Eds.), Research in organizations: Foundations and methods of inquiry (pp. 401-418). Berrett-Koehler.

Dahuri, R. (2020, July 11). Pre-and post-tsunami coastal planning and land-use policies and issues in Indonesia. FAO Website.

Drazin, A., & Küchler, S. (2015). The social life of materials: studies in materials and society. Bloomsbury Academic.

Eriksen, M., Pivnenko, K., Olsson, M., & Astrup, T. (2018). Contamination in plastic recycling: Influence of metals on the quality of reprocessed plastic. Waste Management, 79, 595–606.

Glade-Wright, R. (2019). Plastic Gothic: Frankenstein, Art and the Microplastic Monster. eTropic: Electronic Journal of Studies in the Tropics, 18(2), 68–80.

Godfrey, L. (2019). Waste Plastic, the Challenge Facing Developing Countries—Ban It, Change It, Collect It? Recycling, 4(1), 3.

Gokkon, B. (2019, December 10). Indonesia re-exporting illegal waste to other countries, report finds. Mongabay Environmental News.

Gradín, C. (2015). Race, Ethnicity, Immigration, and Living Conditions in Costa Rica. Review of Income and Wealth, 62(S1), 90–119.

Gregory, P. (2012, April 17). Free Market Solutions to Indigenous Poverty. IPA Review.

Guerrero, L. A., Maas, G., & Hogland, W. (2013). Solid waste management challenges for cities in developing countries. Waste Management, 33(1), 220–232.

Hakkens, D. (2018). Eco tourism: Recycle plastic in Nias.

Heshmati, A., Kim, J., & Wood, J. (2019). A Survey of Inclusive Growth Policy. Economies, 7(3), 65.

IWGIA (n.d). Indigenous Peoples in Philippines.

IWGIA (n.d). Indigenous Peoples in Indonesia.

Jacquelin-Andersen, P. (2018). The Indigenous World. The International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs.

Jambeck, J. R., Geyer, R., Wilcox, C., Siegler, T. R., Perryman, M., Andrady, A., Narayan, R. & Law, K. L. (2015). Plastic waste inputs from land into the ocean. Science, 347(6223), 768–771.

Leahy, S. (2019, April 15). Microplastics are raining down from the sky. National Geographic.

Lebreton, L. C. M., Zwet, J. V. D., Damsteeg, J.-W., Slat, B., Andrady, A., & Reisser, J. (2017). River plastic emissions to the world’s oceans. Nature Communications, 8(1).

Le Guern, C. (2009, November 11). When the Mermaids Cry: The Great Plastic Tide. Coastal Care.

Le Roux, G. (2016a) L'Art des ghostnets: vingt mille filets autour de la mer / Ghostnet art: twenty thousand nets around the sea. In J. Stéphane, (Ed.) Éditions Arts d’Australie, Paris, France, pp. 9-33.

Le Roux, G. (2016b). Transforming Representations of Marine Pollution. For a New Understanding of the Artistic Qualities and Social Values of Ghost Nets Anthrovision, 4(1).

Luoma, C. (2020, May 22). Indigenous Guardianship is Imperative to Protecting Earth's Biodiversity. Minority Rights Group.

Mann, A. (2019, March 1). The waste challenge: Is Indonesia at a tipping point? The Jakarta Post.

McIlgorm, A., Campbell, H. F., & Rule, M. J. (2011). The economic cost and control of marine debris damage in the Asia-Pacific region. Ocean & Coastal Management, 54(9), 643–651.

McKay, D. (2017, November 21). These countries are getting creative with plastic waste. World Economic Forum.

McKay, D., & Perez, P. L. (2017). Plastic masculinity: How everyday objects in plastic suggest men could be otherwise. Journal of Material Culture, 23(2), 169–186.

Minority Rights Group International. (n.d). Minority Stories.

Nascimento, D. L. M., Alencastro, V., Quelhas, O. L. G., Caiado, R. G. G., Garza-Reyes, J. A., Rocha-Lona, L., & Tortorella, G. (2019). Exploring Industry 4.0 technologies to enable circular economy practices in a manufacturing context. Journal of Manufacturing Technology Management, 30(3), 607–627.

Nash, A. D. (1992). Impacts of marine debris on subsistence fishermen: An exploratory study. Marine Pollution Bulletin, 24(3), 150–156.

Parriciatu, M., & Sindico, F. (2012). Contours of an Indigenous Peoples’ Right to Water in Latin America under International Law. International Human Rights Law Review, 1(2), 211–236.

Perkasa, V. (2014, September 22). The world conference on indigenous peoples: A view from Indonesia. Council of Councils.

Peters, A. (2017, October 30). These DIY Machines Let Anyone Recycle Plastic Into New Products. Fast Company.

Phillips, C. (2017). Discerning ocean plastics: Activist, scientific, and artistic practices. Environment and Planning A, 49(5), 1146–1162.

Putri, A. R., Fujimori, T., & Takaoka, M. (2018). Plastic waste management in Jakarta, Indonesia: Evaluation of material flow and recycling scheme. Springer Professional, 21(4).

Nangoy, F. (2019, August 23). Indonesia's plastic recycling exports hit by tougher rules on imported waste. Reuters.

Diela, T., & Widianto, S. (2020, January 7). Indonesia's capital bans single-use plastic bags from markets and malls. Reuters.

Rhodes, C. J. (2018). Plastic Pollution and Potential Solutions. Science Progress. 101(3), 207-260.

Rice, D. (2018, September 8). Where did the trash in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch come from? How do we stop it? CNBC.

Romero‐Hernández, O., & Romero, S. (2018). Maximizing the value of waste: From waste management to the circular economy. Thunderbird International Business Review, 60(5), 757–764.

Ruhanen, L., & Whitford, M. (2019). Cultural heritage and Indigenous tourism. Journal of Heritage Tourism, 14, 1–13.

Sasaki, S., Araki, T., Tambunan, A. H., & Prasadja, H. (2014). Household income, living and working conditions of dumpsite waste pickers. Resources, Conservation and Recycling, 89, 11-21.

Sembiring, E., & Nitivattananon, V. (2010). Sustainable solid waste management toward an inclusive society: Integration of the informal sector. Resources, Conservation and Recycling, 54(11), 802-809.

Shockley, G.E., Frank, P.M., Stough, R.R. (Eds). (2008). Non-Market Entrepreneurship: Interdisciplinary Approaches. Edward Elgar Pub.

Sui, L., Wang, J., Yang, X. & Wang, Z. (2020). Spatial-Temporal Characteristics of Coastline Changes in Indonesia from 1990 to 2018. Sustainability. 12, 3242;

The Business Times. (2019, August 20). Foreign trash 'like treasure' in Indonesia's plastics village. The Business Times.

The World Bank. (2019, April 2). Indigenous Peoples.

Thompson, R. C., Swan, S. H., Moore, C. J., & Yom Saal, F. S. (2009). Our plastic age. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 364(1526), 1973–1976.

Torraco, R. J. (2005). Writing integrative literature reviews: Guidelines and examples. Human Resource Development Review, 4, 356-367.

Torraco, R. J. (2016). Writing integrative literature reviews: Using the past and present to explore the future. Human Resource Development Review, 15, 404-428.

United Nations (2007). Frequently Asked Questions: Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

United Nations (2008). United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Retrieved from

Villarrubia-Gómez, P., Cornell, S. E., & Fabres, J. (2018). Marine plastic pollution as a planetary boundary threat – The drifting piece in the sustainability puzzle. Marine Policy, 96, 213–220.

Wagner-Lawlor, J. (2018). Poor theory and the art of plastic pollution in Nigeria: relational aesthetics, human ecology, and “good housekeeping”. Social Dynamics, 44(2), 198-220.

Watson, I. (2019, April 27). China's recycling ban has sent America's plastic to Malaysia. Now they don't want it. CNN.

Whiting, K. (2019). Indonesia has a plan to deal with its plastic waste problem. World Economic Forum.

Wood, J. (2018, September). Asia’s plastic problem is choking the world’s oceans. Here’s how to fix it.

Wood, J., Park, J., Kim, W. & Oh, J. (2020). The Relationship between Work Engagement and Work-Life Balance in Organizations: A Review of the Empirical Research. Human Resource Development Review, 19(3), 240-262.

World Economic Forum. (2016). The New Plastics Economy. World Economic Forum.




How to Cite

Wood, J., Paturi, S., Puri, P., Senf Jakobsen, E., Shankar, S., Zejden, P., & Azzali, S. (2020). Plastic Marine Waste and its Potential for Indonesian Indigenous Communities. ETropic: Electronic Journal of Studies in the Tropics, 19(1).