ARKdesign Quarterly (AQ): CSIRO is leading in the way of research into environmental, what comes in your mind when we call about plastic pollution on our food chain and indirectly on humans?
Archie T. Slamet (ATS): As an independent Australian federal government agency, CSIRO responsible for scientific research. The main role is to improve the economic and social performance of industry for the benefit of the community. Especially in ocean pollution, CSIRO believed that our ocean has contains plastic pollution. The pollution that occurred in the sea now it all comes from land, and occurs most severely because of human activities. The most factors that causing marine pollution is due to plastic waste. The plastic itself has a certain level of degradation and different decomposition capabilities. Most plastic waste need years to decomposition and this caused many problems in ocean environment. From the food chain, nano plastics eaten by phytoplankton then fish then human. It called a biomagnification process. In this biomagnification process occurs the absorption of pollution material resulting from the concentration level that exceeds the environmental balance.
AQ: Human waste and littering become one of the factors that causes ocean pollution. Some researchers said that biodegradable plastic could be one of the solutions to reduce plastic trash, what do you think?
ATS: I thought when we tried to approach this plastic waste problem in our ocean, what we need to emphasized is that this plastic waste is holistic approach. So biodegradable is not the only solution, because this plastic waste is complicated problems and involved many parties in creating solutions. We should take actions from the up until the stream, as example from the company which produce plastic how to create plastic product that could be reusable, not single used. In consumers, what we could do is not using plastic at all, but at least reduce the plastic waste. At government as decision maker could make limitation of using single used plastic and reduce the plastic waste into regulations, and so on.
AQ: Over the years, we’ve learned that microplastic fills a good portion of the ocean – about 88 percent of surface waters. What danger does that pose to the environment and human health?
ATS: The greatest impact on the human body, for example, microplastics and nanoplastics through the bloodstream affecting and caused damages in our brain, nerves, liver and kidneys. Other harmful effects in the human body can also accelerate the growth of unnatural cells, or commonly known as cancer. In addition, the nanoplastics can mix with heavy metals in pregnant women and could affect the organ damage of the fetus, the case is named teratogenic.
AQ: UN report said biodegradable plastic “false solution” for ocean waste problem, what do you think about this report? Do you have any other solution regarding reduce plastic waste?
ATS: In my opinion, this UN report in my opinion is true, because no matter how the most concrete solution yes to reduce the use of plastics. In my opinion, biodegradable plastics is not a solution that guarantees it will minimize damage. Because basically the plastic that just parse about 30-50 years.
AQ: What other solutions that involve the cooperation and education of communities, do you think is needed to combat plastic ocean pollution? Maybe some other system at the source of the problem?
AQ: If we need to stop both the demand and supply of plastics, how do you see a solution to this, is there any ideas?
ATS: I think it is impossible to stop the production of plastic. Supply and demand in this industry is unbearable. The solution, of course, as already discussed in holistic way from up until stream. (AQ/Maya)
AQ: CSIRO developed some innovation in marine pollution, what is the most useful amongst other innovations that can be implemented in Indonesia being the second largest plastic ocean polluter? Would you mind to give some examples?
ATS: In my opinion, the word “innovation” is not properly right, because what we did so far could not be mentioned as innovation, because it didn’t give real impact to the environment. And what we had done so far through research is to facilitate scientific findings that could be implemented. What CSIRO already done in Bali, we follow how plastic that we use going to the river and ended in ocean. At Australia, CSIRO and ocean technology start-up Saildrone are collaborating to deploy state-of-the- art automated marine monitoring vehicles to study our oceans and climate. Our specialised deep-water video system
About Archie T. Slamet:
Archie was appointed to the position of CSIRO Director – Indonesia in June 2014, as part of CSIRO’s international plan to develop collaborations with Indonesian research institutes, universities and the private sector. His role also encompasses community development, in partnership with the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, to raise the income of poor farmers in Eastern Indonesia, through the ARISA project.
Graduating from RMIT University in Food Science and Technology, Archie gained his technical and business experience in the corporate sector, where he worked in various positions in multi-national companies from 1980 to 1995. He then worked for 19 years at Austindco Pty Ltd, a consultancy company that he established in 1995, providing technical, marketing and management services to the food and allied industry in Business Development, Productivity Improvement and Risk Management.