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Indonesia’s Trash Problem

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The country is now the world’s second-largest source of oceanic plastic pollution.

If you’re in Surabaya, Indonesia’s second-largest city, you can use plastic trash as bus fare five plastic bottles or 10 plastic cups are the equivalent of a two-hour ticket. A year after this program began, each bus is collecting up to 7.5 tons of plastic a month, which the city then cleans and auctions off to recycling companies. The initiative aims to incentivize the use of public transit and to clear Surabaya’s streets and waterways of the plastic trash that has accompanied Indonesia’s rapidly growing economy.
Polluted groundwater and untrustworthy water supplies mean that nearly every Indonesian who can afford it buys bottled beverages. That’s ‘good’ for companies like Coca-Cola, which more than doubled its workforce in Indonesia between 2013 and 2018, from 60,000 to 135,000. But just because some Indonesians have the money to buy more things doesn’t mean that this country, made up of 17,000 volcanic islands, has the recycling infrastructure to deal with the plastic those products are packaged in. The country is now the world’s second-largest source of oceanic plastic pollution, surpassed only by China which has over four times Indonesia’s population.
Waste management tends to be ad hoc in Indonesia. Many provinces and cities lack regular trash or recycling pickups and rely on informal waste pickers, who abandon what they can’t use with little fear of consequences. For many islands, the ocean has become a dump for waste.
Over 2,000 independently operated collection sites known as “trash banks” also operate across the country. People bring in organic waste (which is turned into compost) and recycling that can be either exchanged for cash or stored as credit providing basic banking services for the poor. Indonesia’s trash banks get varying levels of support from local governments. In some cases, a city or regional government will pay a set cost for plastics.
The national government is also partnering with Indonesia’s two largest Islamic organizations, Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) and Muhammadiyah, to connect religious values with the effort to reduce plastic waste. “Islam is a religion that teaches people to care [for] and conserve the environment, including the plastic problem,” says Dr. Ir. Muhjidin Mawardi, chairman of Muhammadiyah’s environmental division. NU and Muhammadiyah published the book Waste Management From an Islamic Perspective and produce “sermons on waste,” or Ngaji Sampah, that are broadcast online monthly.
(Extracted from sierraclub.org)