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The benefits of plastic are unquestionable. It’s cheap, lightweight and ubiquitous. But plastic can take thousands of years to break down, and the growing use of single-use plastics is becoming one of our planet’s greatest environmental challenges.

Sustainability is at the core of our business, and our staff wanted to take action. And that led to the recent Plastic-Free Challenge in our office in Jakarta, which saw hundreds of staff pledge to cut down their plastic use.

RGE Plastic Free

The challenge was inspired by an earlier campaign conducted in the Riau Andalan Pulp and Paper (RAPP) complex in Pangkalan Kerinci, Riau in 2018. The RAPP Complex is home to several thousand of the company’s staff, as well as the facilities they use including the RAPP sports complex, food court, and supermarket. It is also home to Hotel Unigraha, which accommodates both local and foreign guests in the area.

The initial Plastic-Free Campaign in Pangkalan Kerinci started from the hotel. With a total of 400kg of plastic waste every month, hotel management decided to stop providing plastic mineral water bottles in rooms and replaced them with water dispensers throughout the hotel. Plastic straws have also been substituted with paper ones in the hotel restaurant.

With these measures, the hotel has managed to reduce its plastic waste from 400kg to 250kg per month. The campaign was extended to the supermarket inside the complex, with 1,500 canvas tote bags given to staff to eliminate the need for plastic bags.

The success of the campaign in Kerinci prompted a ground-up initiative to hold a similar event in Jakarta. That led to the Plastic-Free Challenge, organized by APRIL Sustainability team.

To build awareness on the impacts of plastics on our environment, a screening was held of the award-winning film A Plastic Ocean for the staff in Jakarta office. We also partnered with the Plastic Oceans Foundation to translate the movie into Bahasa Indonesia for the first time.

After the launching of Plastic-Free Challenge in Jakarta office, around 200 staff signed up, and spent the first week monitoring their plastic consumption on a specially-designed scorecard to provide a baseline. At the end of the week each participant signed a pledge to cut plastic consumption by an amount of their choosing. We were thrilled that 53 per cent pledged to cut their plastic usage by half or more.

To help them achieve their new commitment we provided staff with a complimentary lunchbox – but the event proved so popular we had to go out and source more!

"We got an overwhelming reaction so we got many more people registered than we had expected – 30 per cent more. So then I had to quickly run into one of these e-commerce sites and look for additional lunch boxes," said Marina, member of APRIL Sustainability team.

In the second week the focus shifted to action, with a variety of events and peer-sharing sessions arranged to maintain the enthusiasm.

"I think one of our worries was that people would be excited for the challenge during the first two weeks but then their interest would drop off and they would return to their old habits,” said James, another member of APRIL’s Sustainability team. “We organized peer sharing sessions where people get to talk about the issues that they have, and a sense of support group appears where they can share ideas, share solutions going forward and keep each other motivated.

We also screened a video featuring our own Plastic-Free Ambassadors – senior leaders who spoke about the efforts they are making to reduce the use of plastic in their own lives.

At the end of the challenge, two-thirds of participants had managed to hit their targets. That amounts to more than 2,400 pieces of plastic per month that would otherwise have ended up in the trash.

Participants also said they found a newfound appreciation of the impact our individual choices can have on the environment.

Here in APRIL, we're doing our part to reduce plastic waste by continuously supporting the #PlasticFreeChallenge. You can also create impact by making your own pledge here

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