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Indonesia’s Capital Finds Short-Term Fix to Garbage Crisis

Dewi Safitri
2015-11-12
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Trash litters the street in a traditional market in Palu, Indonesia, Nov. 12, 2015.
Trash litters the street in a traditional market in Palu, Indonesia, Nov. 12, 2015.
Keisyah Aprilia/BenarNews

Piles of garbage throughout Jakarta disappeared this week after Gov. Basuki Tjahaja Purnama asked police to escort trucks to landfills at Bantar Gebang and Cileungsi, two towns in neighboring West Java province.

The trash crisis is over for now, but Professor Enri Damanhuri of the Bandung Institute of Technology predicted that, sooner or later, another one would occur.

“What we see is a partial and temporary solution. The garbage is carried and dumped into the landfills, but that is no basic solution,” Enri told BenarNews.

Dubbed Indonesia’s first “garbage doctor,” because of his 35 years working in waste management, Enri says other major cities in Indonesia face similar trash concerns.

“The garbage is just piled up, transported, and disposed through burning or burial,” Enri said.  “Some trash is processed into compost or recycled but on a very small scale, barely noticeable.”

Enri offers the 3-R solution practiced throughout much of the world – reduce, re-use, recycle – to cut down on the amount of trash hauled to landfills or incinerators.

Jakarta produces between 5,443 and 5,897 metric tons (6,000 and 6,500 U.S. tons) of garbage per day, which is turned over to private parties for incineration or burial. There is almost no organized effort to manage efforts to cut the amount.

“I heard that it is good to sort the garbage from plastic, papers materials,” said Renny Ratnawati, a resident of Pasar Rebo sub-district in East Jakarta. “But why do I need to do this if the garbage collector will mix them back together again?”

Separating household recyclables from garbage is shaping the success of waste management, Enri said.

“Without first sorting it, it would be more difficult in processing the garbage, and more stuff needs to be thrown away. No country is successful in processing their garbage without educating people on how to sort it,” he added.

Surabaya, a pioneer in waste management

The city of Surabaya, meanwhile, is able to transform waste into electricity through a project involving collecting gas contained in landfills.

“About 1,200 tons [1,059 metric tons] of garbage can be changed into 2 megawatts of electricity. We’re working to be able to reach the highest potential of up to 10 megawatts,” said Chalid Buchari, head of Surabaya’s Department of Cleanliness and Landscaping.

The city also has succeeded in reducing waste from 2,086 metric tons (2,300 U.S. tons) per day before 2010 to about half that level today.

The toughest challenge is to getting the public to grasp why it is important to cut down on garbage, Chalid said.

“We need to do an endless, consistent and simultaneous campaign. Each week we have to work with the community, provide enough tools and encourage people to get involved,” Chalid said.

The city pioneered the establishment of hundreds of “waste bank postals” that purchase recyclables.

With the help of technology applications developed by local students, the program will allow people to sell their recyclables through their smart phones.

“So people can establish an account, weigh and determine what kind of trash they have, and later converted to rupiah. We will decide the selling price and it is guaranteed not to fluctuate like the price offered by scavengers,” Chalid said.

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