Remarks by Ambassador Blake at Reusable Bags to Replace Plastic Bags‎ Event, Jakarta

Selamat siang semuanya!

Welcome to @america for this great event to inspire us all to think more about how we consume things, what they’re packaged in, and the waste we are all responsible for.

This event is the brainchild of Ranitya Nurlita who you will hear from in a minute.

Ranitya was the winner of the first YSEALI Seeds for the Future grant.

Most of you know what YSEALI is – the Young Southeast Asia Leadership Initiative – the program, launched by President Obama in 2013, meant to create and connect young leaders in the ASEAN region.

After winning the YSEALI grant, Ranitya has been running the ASEAN Reusable Bag Campaign.  It was launched in Jakarta in 2014.  Since then she has taken it to Bandung, Bogor, Makassar and Aceh.  Outside of Indonesia, she has launched the campaign in Philippines and Malaysia.

This effort is exactly the kind of leadership and ASEAN-wide cooperation YSEALI was meant to encourage and develop.

Ranitya is right to focus her efforts on plastic.  I did a trip on the Ciliwung River to clean trash out of the river and raise awareness of the importance of not dumping trash in the rivers.  This is a problem that affects many countries, including the U.S.

Plastic makes up the majority of waste that is dumped in our rivers and streams.  Over time, plastic will break down into smaller and smaller pieces, but will never totally go away.  It becomes a toxin that enters our food and water supply and even the soil where our food comes from.

Before it breaks down into small particles, it becomes a problem of unique significance for Indonesia. The underlying cause of the floods that regularly occur here is that garbage – mostly plastic – clogs the waterways so that they cannot do their job of draining urban areas properly.

So Ranitya’s campaign has a simple goal – to replace single-use plastic bags that litter our streets and waterways, with reusable bags.

So I really want to congratulate Ranitya on her initiative.  Lots of people complain about problems like plastic waste.  But few do anything about it.

A leader is someone who sees a problem and looks for a solution.  The Reusable Bag Campaign started small – one person at a time – but as her campaign grows, it is keeping more and more plastic out of the water in Indonesia.

Thank you all for coming today.  I hope you will join in raising awareness about the problem of plastic trash and working with your communities to embrace Reusable Bags and other solutions!

As prepared.