Indonesia Anonymus

We are a group of Indonesians, ranting about our beloved country. This blog is a result of many people grumbling about many things in many ways.
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Anonymus is the Latin word for anonymous, the correct English spelling. The Latin spelling, however, is traditionally used by scholars in the humanities to refer to an ancient writer whose name is not known, or to a manuscript of their work. Read more at Wikipedia.

Our blog in Bahasa Indonesia (but rarely updated) can be found here.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Garbage In, Not Quite Garbage Out

Last week Jakartass wrote about product-packaging and how it generates an incredible amount of trash [1].
There is a link to an article that asked: "One family, one month, 50kg of packaging. Why?" [2].

"it was inevitable that the 4.6m tonnes of packaging waste we throw away each year, adding around £480 a year to the average food bill, and considered by many consumers to be beyond the pale in environmental terms..."

That is in England, of course.

But it inspired us to do this experiment:

We asked all IA members to collect a week's worth of household trash and we will see how bad it is here.

In detail we did the following:
We separate our trash into organic, paper and plastic. We threw away the organic, keep the papers on one pile (we keep only the dry ones), and any kind of plastic-packaging or wrapping on another pile. We had to clean and dry them beforehand, of course.

This is not easy, you know. Unlike in Europe where people separate their trash religiously (organic, paper, plastic, can, clear-bottle, colored-bottle, battery ...), in Indonesia (or at least among us) it is yet to be a habit. Some colleagues who have domestic helps found it a hard task to tell the maids to separate the organic and the non-organic(And among the non-organic, to separate paper from plastic). Their maids thought it was a joke. Or worse, Some thought we did it on purpose to make their life difficult.

And how did we do?

In one week, on average, IA families collected 6.8 kg of packaging waste. The lowest was 2.1 kg , from a member who is single and living alone (poor soul..), and the highest was 8.4 kg, from a large family with four kids and with some extended family-members living in the same house.

Roughly, in one month we would have made an average of 28 kg of packaging waste.
(this is not scientific, of course).

Not as bad as England, but still.

We did not stop there. One colleague happened to know a scavenger who always comes around his neighborhood, Looking for anything worth picking from the neighborhood trash bins. Mostly he looks for recyclable paper or plastic-waste, of which he would clean and sell to a recycling company.

If there is one person who can tell which is worth recycling and which is not, this is the man. His name is Pak Milan. (No, he was not born there. We asked.)

So on Sunday we brought together all the waste from our experiment to our colleague's house and invited Pak Milan to pay a visit and see our trash collection.
We asked him to do some kind of 'appraisal'.

When he first saw the pile of waste - all separated, clean and dry - he was in awe.
"You all did this? Sorting your own trash? Why?"

So we explained to him about the experiment.

"My God," he said, still can't get his eyes off the piles, as if he was staring at a stack of gold, "if every house does this, my life would be a lot easier... I won't need to go through all the stinky wet garbage just to find something good..."

One of our maids (who tagged along to help transporting the trash) was in tears. If before she thought separating trash had no purpose and just a really bad conspiracy to make her life difficult, she now certainly found a purpose for it.

It can make someone's life a lot easier.

In short, according to Pak Milan, almost 100% of our paper-waste is worth taking. As for the plastic-waste, he said only about half the pile is usable. The rest even recycling company won't take them. We didn't ask further about which kind of plastic is good and not. Maybe we should have, so the next time we go shopping, we can watch out for products with unrecycleable-plastic packaging.
For now, we are happy that we are able to reduce our waste significantly, and able to recycle some of it.

Some colleagues who live around where Pak Milan operates made an agreement with him. We will keep separating our trash, and Pak Milan will come by once a week to collect them. This way we will have less trash in our bin, and Pak Milan can save a lot of his time.

Other colleagues living further away are planning to find their own 'Pak Milan' to make the same deal.

[1]Jakartass - Living in the Pack Age
[2] The Observer Magazine - One family, one month, 50kg of packaging. Why?


Anonymous Anonymous said...

That's fantastic. I wish more people were aware of how much sorting your rubbish is really worth - to the environment and to the Pak Milans of this world. I hope you'll ask your pembantu to continue to sort the rubbish.

4:46 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Very good idea. I only separate organic non organic garbage. Well, I do separate the bottles (you know, the body lotion, toilettries and all) so they can "recycle" it.
Should apply it at home now.

6:02 PM  
Blogger Indo Dreamin' said...

That is very interesting and commendable. I am curious how much Pak Milan makes for the plastic though.

1:36 PM  
Blogger Indonesia Anonymus said...

undercovercookie & silverlines,
thank you for the comments.

Bismilah Z.U.A.K. Bin J. (Avi),

He did not make much at all. Really. It was sad. So sad we don't have the heart to write it here..

3:13 PM  
Blogger Admin said...

Bravo big time IA! :-) I'm so proud of you guys...seriously. It isn't easy to get used to recycling, isn't it? but you's not that difficult either. Imagine the possibility here? you guys can start a recycling system with Pak Milan's help or a recycling company for that matter :-D Team work is the key...this is a wonderful experiment that can turn into an opportunity to save the planet even in Jakarta ;-P Start from one neighborhood to the next...for example.

Anyways...I'm so happy you can't imagine it :-) Thanks to Jakarass too then to "motivate" you guys to do this experiment...maybe all indonesian blogs in Indonesia can participate? :-)

9:28 PM  
Blogger Marek Bialoglowy said...

You should translate this to Bahasa Indonesia and publish in some newspaper. Most expats are aware of the issue, thus I think you should target this to Indonesian audience.

12:04 AM  
Blogger Admin said...

Agree with Marek! :-) what do you guys think?

11:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Marek and Maya,

Thank you for the suggestion.
We will find time to translate it.

We however think that most Indonesians know about this already. At least in theory.
In practice, we all know how it is.

What we are doing is to start small, in within our own community. If other people see it and think it is a good idea, they'll follow.

8:54 PM  

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