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More than 1.5 million households whose livelihoods rely on coastal ecosystems are disproportionately threatened by plastic waste. The contamination of marine ecosystems has caused great alarm in these communities, who fear that their catch is no longer safe to eat. Furthermore, the polluted ocean waters caused by plastic debris may deter tourists from visiting the region.  

Plastic pollution also has a very negative impact on the communities that live near rivers since it can cause clogging and catastrophic flooding, which increases the risk of property damage for women and disrupts children's education. As it is estimated that 3.34% of Indonesian households rely on rivers for drinking water, waste accumulation could eventually endanger rural livelihoods and pollute water sources for daily consumption. 

Women play a significant role in waste management since they mostly took the decisions regarding plastic consumption and disposable in their households. Therefore, their input should be taken into account when designing and consulting on policies, and failing to do so may jeopardize the effectiveness of any policy measures. 

Indonesia Plastic Sector: Social Context Assessment Report published by NPAP in 2022 explains at least eight ways to improve women's access to plastic and support the plastic waste eradication effort, which are: 

1. Advocate for increased women’s representation and women’s voices in regulatory authorities 

The report found that women's participation at national and local decision-making process in public space remains low. They found that women are largely missing from waste sectoral regulation as it fails to recognize the gendered policy impact. At the same time, they found that gendered power struggles persisted, limiting women's participation in waste policy design. 

2. Deliberately foster environments where women’s perspectives are sought out and valued 

The participation of women in environmental and social advocacy is limited by gender stereotypes which are prevalent in public gatherings. For example, women are often only allowed to prepare snacks or be the secretary in village meetings. Young women's contributions are also limited because they are not allowed to attend the meeting since they aren't considered adults. Unmarried women are also not invited to the meeting because they are perceived to have little social status. If such practices continue, waste sector policy will be unable to address the challenges that women face when consuming and disposing of plastic products. 

3. Support the availability of gender disaggregated data in the plastic sector 

The report also reveals a lack of gendered data in Indonesia's waste management and recycling industries. Gender data is not included in the SIPSN or the national waste management information system, nor is it included in the annual environmental statistical report. Policymakers are unable to assess the realities of people's lives and provide appropriate policies when waste data lacks gender information. It is difficult not only to quantify the rate of female representation, but also to trace women's influence in the waste sector. 

4. Creation of targeted financial opportunities for innovative solutions by women-owned and women-led companies 

Women's significant involvement in waste management supposedly makes women capable of developing innovative plastic waste solutions. Despite gender-neutral policies for women in MSMEs, women continue to face financing barriers when starting a business. One impediment to women obtaining financial information for business growth is a lack of social networking. As a result, it is critical that investors and financial institutions create targeted financial opportunities for women and assist them in connecting with other female innovators to innovate solutions, particularly in the waste sector. Knowing someone from the bank or another businesswoman who has gone through the same experience can help them understand the loan options available and provide advice on how to make their business more sustainable. 

5. Raising the availability of women-owned initiatives that improve the circular plastic supply chain 

One barrier for women-owned handicraft businesses is obtaining technical support for ensuring the flow of plastic waste for handicraft production. Women in the handicraft industry transform unused plastic packaging into usable and valuable products such as coffee sachet bags, potato chip package wallets, and cement bag laptop covers. Nonetheless, because they are not recyclable and have no monetary value, plastic sachets are rarely collected by waste collectors. As a result, assisting handicraft manufacturers in collecting plastic materials may increase the industry's viability while also contributing to the reduction of plastic waste. 

6. Encouraging the recognition of the informal economy, such as waste collection to increase protections and regulation 

Although women are employed as informal waste workers in the waste recycling industry, but their labor rights are unprotected. Because the recycling industry is traditionally considered a man's domain, women are employed in lower-skilled positions and earn less than men. In fact, male waste pickers earn more than female waste pickers (US$128.1 for men and US$69.7 for women). Waste workers frequently lack identification cards, making it impossible for them to obtain low-income health insurance. The informal nature of Indonesia's recycling industry contributes to wage volatility as well as the employer's responsibility to respect workers' rights. In order to better assist waste collectors and improve their general health and well-being, the government may collaborate with private enterprises to allocate corporate social responsibility (CSR) funding to waste collector health and safety. Engagement with the private sector could be strengthened further to enable businesses that use waste pickers as primary employees and to help waste picker families, such as child -care and skill-upgrading programs. 

7. Targeted information sharing about the risk of plastic use and improper disposal 

Although women are typically in charge of household waste management, they often lack the necessary tools and infrastructure to do so effectively. Furthermore, households often have limited access to detailed information on waste types and proper waste management. This lack of assistance leads to unsustainable waste management practices, such as collecting all waste into one bin without sorting. To ensure that women and households can handle domestic waste in a sustainable manner, it is critical to improve access to information and infrastructure for sustainable waste management. One way to support this change is by improving waste education through a prominent figure, such as a religious or village leader. 

8. Developing a holistic, gender inclusive framework for waste bank management  

Women withdraw from operating waste bank units because their active participation in the waste bank is not accompanied by gender-responsive management practices. Around 98% of waste bank managers and operators are women but many units are closing their operations due to the difficulties women face in balancing household and waste bank responsibilities. The lack of a standard compensation mechanism for waste bank managers, as well as the difficulties in maintaining the waste bank's finances, exacerbate the situation, resulting in only 20-30 of thousands of registered waste banks successfully running the operation without financial problems. A gender-inclusive framework for waste banks is required to ensure that women's participation in waste management through waste banks can be sustained. 

This assessment concludes that promoting gender equity in the plastic value chain may improve the efficacy of plastic waste reduction programs. To create a just circular plastic economy, all stakeholders must be aware of the challenges that women face and work together to promote gender equality throughout the plastics value chain.