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Indonesia’s Waste4Change innovates to tackle trash mountain

Published on February 21, 2023

Ahead of National Waste Awareness Day, Lauren Blasco, Head of ESG at AC Ventures, conducted an on-site visit with Waste4Change, Indonesia’s leading responsible waste management startup. 

With a population of more than 270 million, Indonesia has the largest waste management problem in Southeast Asia, with the recycling rate still remarkably low at 6%. But this may soon change, as regulators bring new policies into the fold. Currently managing more than 8,000 tons of waste per year, Waste4change offers a holistic waste management platform that helps businesses and individuals reduce the amount of waste that piles up in Indonesia’s landfills.

The group visited the Bantar Gebang Landfill, also known as the world’s largest dump. During the visit, Mohamad Bijaksana Junerosano, Founder and CEO of Waste4Change, highlighted several key issues related to the landfill.

The rate of incoming waste is quickly increasing, with more vehicles coming in every year. According to a 2015 Ministry of Environment & Forestry study, Indonesia produces 175,000 tons of waste daily. Such a large amount of waste is causing landfills like Bantar Gebang to rapidly reach capacity and overflow.

More than 70% of recyclable waste is still being dumped into landfills, which is reducing their lifespan overall and discarding what would otherwise be valuable resources.

Building new landfills is difficult because no one wants to live near them. Residents who do live near them receive “stink money” compensation of approximately Rp900,000 (~US$60) every three months for the loss of clean air.

Better traceability is needed, as 80% of marine debris comes from land. There have also been instances of informal recyclers illegally dumping waste into rivers, as seen in the Cisadane River.

Waste workers and scavengers are operating in dangerous conditions, particularly informal workers who receive low incomes.

During the visit, the group was greeted by a 40-meter mountain of trash and a long line of trucks bringing in more waste. The group was given boots to wear as they ascended the giant mass of garbage for a closer inspection. 

Waste4Change’s innovative solutions

From there, the group visited Waste4Change’s materials recovery facility, which processes clients’ waste to reduce landfill volume at sites like Bantar Gebang. Here, waste is sorted into organic and inorganic categories and further separated by material type. 

Organic waste is composted using the windrow method or used as feed for Black Soldier Fly larvae, which can then be used as animal and fish feed. Inorganic waste is distributed to recycling partners and waste banks after being chopped and pressed, while residual waste is taken to landfills by government officials. Waste4Change also offers a Zero-Waste to Landfill service that sends residual waste to collaborators who can convert it into cement raw materials.

Waste4Change’s clients are primarily businesses, but the startup has the Send Your Waste program for individuals to ship inorganic waste directly. In 2022, Waste4Change processed an average of 30.24 tons of waste per day, a 140% increase from the previous year. 

The government recently launched the Indonesia Clean from Waste 2025 program, inaugurated through the Presidential Regulation of the Republic of Indonesia 97/2017. This rule requires all parties to support the realization of 30% segregation from source (sorting waste items into separate bins so that certain waste can be processed into different recycled products) and 70% recycling of waste to reduce the volume that ultimately ends up in landfills. The government’s aggressive target needs to be reached before the end of 2025.

In recognition of National Waste Awareness Day, Waste4Change shared that the Indonesian government is considering a plastic credit program that includes waste collection and recycling credits. These credits could be sold to plastic creditors who want to reduce their plastic usage. This can benefit the waste recycling sector and provide opportunities for various stakeholders.

See also: Waste4Change CEO on dealing with Indonesia’s plastic problem
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