Just some of the detritus finding its way to an 'uninhabited' island in south-east Asia.
Just some of the detritus finding its way to an 'uninhabited' island in south-east Asia.

Due to its persistence, durability, and sheer volume, marine plastic debris (ocean plastic) is emerging as a new, truly global challenge.

The amount of unmanaged plastic waste entering the ocean has reached crisis levels, causing significant environmental, ecological and economic damage.

About 8 million metric tons of plastic leaks out of the global economy and into the ocean each year. 

The majority (eighty per cent) results from land-based sources: discarded plastic that is uncollected, and unmanaged eventually makes its way into the ocean.

In south-east Asia, plastics use has outpaced waste management and infrastructure. The situation is approaching catastrophic proportions.

The island nation of Indonesia is the second-largest contributor to marine plastic pollution after China.

Complex geography, lack of formal recycling systems, and minimal collection services make waste management a difficult issue for many small island communities.

The Indonesian government acknowledges the problem and is seeking collaborative solutions, including increased awareness and policy changes.


This project is focused on reducing ocean plastic pollution in remote coastal communities in Indonesia. The project is guided by the following objectives:

  • Examine factors contributing to ocean plastic pollution in remote, low-resource coastal communities
  • Understand community dynamics related to the use and disposal of single use plastics
  • Identify drivers and key pathways for reducing and preventing single-use plastic leakage into the marine environment


In collaboration with the Indonesian Institute of Science (LIPI), this project focuses on small island communities in Eastern Indonesia.  Proposed fieldwork sites and the months during which they are most accessible are listed below.

All the sites present varying challenges relating to ocean plastic management in ecotourism destinations.

  1. Bahuluang island (Selayar, South Sulawesi), April–Oct
  2. Ambon (Maluku), Oct–May
  3. Biak (North Papua), March-Nov
  4. Bitung (North Sulawesi), May–Oct or Wakatobi (Sulawesi Tenggara), March–Nov


The University of Queensland

Dr Anna Phelan – UQ Business School
Prof. Helen Ross – UQ School of Agriculture and Food Sciences
A/Prof.  Lisa Ruhanen – UQ Business School
Dr Carl Smith – UQ Business School
A/Prof. Kelly Fielding – UQ School of Communication and Arts
Prof. Mark Moran – UQ Institute for Social Science Research


Mr Tommy Hendrix – Head of Research and Development Division for Technology Information, Indonesian Institute of Science (LIPI)
Mr Firman Tri Ajie – Head of Subdivision Technology Transfer, Centre for Innovation, Indonesian Institute of Science (LIPI)
Dr Herry Yogaswara – Anthropologist, Division of Human Ecology, Research Centre for Population, Indonesian Institute of Science (LIPI)
Dr Novie Setianto – Senior Researcher, Socioeconomic Department of the Faculty of Animal Science, Jenderal Soedirman University, Central Java

More information – Dr Anna Phelan

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