From waste to millions of rupiah products: How the people of Lombok Island deal with plastic waste
February 18, 2021

The people of Lombok Island in West Nusa Tenggara Province are taking vital steps to create a recycling community while preventing their beaches from becoming contaminated with plastic waste, as the island's popularity increases.

Lombok has been predicted by the Indonesian government as one of the "Ten New Bali". The annual round of the MotoGP World Championship is also planned to be held on the island through the $ 3 billion Mandalika Project. However, even though it will bring economic benefits, infrastructure development and foreign tourist visits also have the potential to have side effects.

According to government data, Indonesia annually discharges approximately 85 million kilograms of plastic waste into the environment, so that this archipelago country is known as the second largest contributor of plastic waste in the world after China. Statistics from 2015 show that the country recycles only 7% of its total waste.

However, there are a number of groups in Lombok who are determined to increase this figure.

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In August 2019, the non-governmental organization Invest Islands Foundation, located just a few minutes' drive from the Mandalika International Highway Circuit in South Lombok, offered employment and steady income to a community of 10 underprivileged women. They were asked to collect garbage on the southernmost beaches around Torok Bay.

18 months later and after more than six tonnes of plastic waste have been collected, the foundation is now installing a crusher that will turn the non-biodegradable waste into trinkets, toys, wallets and dishes.

By selling these items in local shops as well as in its offices in Lombok and Perth, Australia, the foundation hopes to create a sustainable economy.

"The amount of rubbish strewn on Indonesia's beaches has caused terrible environmental damage. So we need to act in Lombok right now to deal with it before it's too late and face a situation like in Bali," Masri Asril, the foundation's Project Manager, told journalist Gary Meenaghan who reported for BBC News Indonesia.

"Thankfully, there are several projects on the island that not only help clean the beach every day, but also reuse plastic, make schools environmentally friendly, and organize classes to help provide aid, and educate people about the importance of disposing of waste responsibly. . "

Plastic waste is used as a number of works that can be sold

The Invest Islands Foundation will install a trashboom in the coming weeks to help tackle pollution of waterways and prevent waste in rivers reaching the oceans.

The foundation has also placed five large-scale garbage bins to facilitate garbage disposal in the south of the island. Asril said the inspiration for many waste management initiatives came from Aisyah Odist, a local activist who is engaged in conservation and wise consumption for the community. Odist founded the NTB Mandiri Waste Bank in 2011 and now manages Lombok Eco Craft in Mataram City, which is an innovative solution for his community to overcome dependence on single-use plastics.

Through creative ways to process worthless waste such as used tires and packaging of packaged beverage materials into handbags, tablecloths, key chains and placemats, she and dozens of local women have created many works in the provincial capital. Some of their products are sold at retail with various prices up to IDR 1 million.

"I don't accept trash that people can sell elsewhere, like plastic or paper bottles," Odist said.

"I just want rubbish that is worthless, like the wrappers of beverage ingredients that rub up our rivers and scattered on our beaches. That way, we can turn something that was once worthless into a product that makes people want to buy it in the future. and, at the same time, helping to clean up the island. "

A container was created using a cap of bottled water

Odist also admits that she does not accept customers in remote locations in the hope that people on the island can create their own business independently. One example is Plastik Kembali, which is a product design studio located in Serong Belanak that independently processes single-use plastics. Founded in 2019 by an American-Swiss couple, Elissa Gjertson and Daniel Schwizer, Plastics Return starts only with a backyard, an oven, and is accompanied by a desire to make a difference through art.

About a year later, the business employs 30 local residents, buys plastic waste from local communities, and creates hundreds of artistic products every month. "The recycling of single-use plastics won't work in the long run because the resulting product is of a lower quality - it's basically" down-cycling "and it will end up in landfills," said Gjertson, from Minnesota, USA. Union.

"That is not our goal, and also Lombok if we want to prevent the problems that Bali has experienced.

"Our goal is to use art to create products that actually increase its value and extend the life cycle of single-use plastics; products that have a strong sense of design - and also educate tourists and society as a whole that the materials that lie in around can be valuable, beautiful, and useful. "

Plastic waste products are sold at various prices. A bench was even sold for Rp1, 8 million

Plastics Return makes everything from decorative bowls to woven textiles, tote bags to coasters, towel racks to kitchen sinks. His latest catalog even includes a bench for Rp1, 8 million.

"We often talk about how the bowl we make is a new family heirloom because it can last hundreds of years," joked Gjertson, whose business has reused around 1,100kg of plastic waste and more than 100,000 single-use polyethylene plastic bags since last August.

Initiatives such as Plastics Kembali, Invest Islands Foundation, and Lombok Eco Craft are reasons for the provincial government to believe that the island is now ready for the boom in tourism - as well as trash - that is expected in the coming years.

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Firmasyah S. HUT. M. Si, Head of Waste Management and Environmental Pollution Control in West Nusa Tenggara, said that the province is now home to 372 waste banks. The awareness of the need for responsible waste management has increased rapidly in the 10 years since Odist opened the NTB Mandiri Waste Bank.

"When compared to 10 or 20 years ago, there is no correlation," said Firmansyah.

"Even when compared to five years ago, there has been a lot of awareness in the community and government. We have a community that cares about waste and the environment and is active in campaigns and education.

"We are very confident that it will not be like Bali because there are so many initiatives within the local community to help the government: namely composting schemes for organic waste, bio-gas from kitchen waste, environmentally friendly bricks, making fuel from waste…"

Women from local communities can earn money from selling plastic waste products

The province of West Nusa Tenggara launched the Waste Free Program in 2018 with two objectives, namely to increase the amount of waste that is managed responsibly, from 20% to 70% in five years - two years earlier than the national target. Since last month, waste management has improved by close to 40 percent.

"Yes, we have set a target to manage 100% of waste starting in 2023," added Firmansyah. "That is our target. Maybe the target is ambitious, but I think we need to set ambitious targets so that we work harder."

Before the COVID-19 pandemic suspended tourism from abroad, Lombok consistently recorded an average increase in the number of annual visitors of more than 20% on an year-on-year basis. The number of tourists from abroad to Lombok each year is around one million people, which is still lower than the number in Bali, which is six million visitors. But Odist believes that when it grows in popularity, Lombok will become more prosperous than its western neighbor.

The Invest Islands Foundation offers work and regular income for a community of 10 underprivileged women to collect trash on the southernmost beaches around Torok Bay

"Of course, we still need more collaboration, but we are ready," he said.

"Before the coronavirus [pandemic], people had forgotten about the environment and were too busy chasing money. Now, we have free time: time to clean and prepare.

"Each island has its own rules, so it's difficult to compare. But Lombok is starting from a better position because it already has a number of new communities that really care about the environment."

In collaboration with Odist, the Invest Islands Foundation has helped create three eco-friendly schools on the island and a fourth is expected to open later this year. Asril, the project manager, said collaboration was key.

"A decade ago there were few small initiatives, but since the Zero Waste Program started the last few years we have seen the creation of many new projects and campaigns aimed at reducing and reusing waste.

"There is a great sense of community in Lombok and that is reflected in the collaboration between the various initiatives, which really helps them thrive and make an impact."

"If that trend continues and future generations continue to be educated about the need for responsible action in wise consumption and waste disposal, I believe that - even as the population and tourists are growing - we can avoid problems like Bali's."

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