Trash Talk: How Circular Economy Reduces Plastic Waste and Elevates Communities in Anambas

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Trash Talk: How Circular Economy Reduces Plastic Waste and Elevates Communities in Anambas

Plastic waste is a huge problem in Indonesia, the country is the second largest plastic waste contributor in the world right after China. In 2019 waste in Indonesia reached 64 million tons in a year. Out of 380 final disposal sites (landfill) available across the region, 50% of them almost reach their maximum capacity and according to Sustainable Waste Indonesia less than 10 percent of plastic waste are getting recycled. 

Meanwhile, plastic consumption continues to rise which is directly proportional to economic and population growth in the country. Data released in 2019 by Ministry of Industry shows that in the next five years, plastic consumption will increase from the initial 17-23 kilograms to 25-49 kilograms per capita per year.

So how do we as an individual and as a society can tackle this issue? First, we can start by practicing the popular 3R’s which is an abbreviation of reduce, reuse, recycle. Limiting the use of plastic bags and opting for reusable shopping bags is also something that almost everyone can do and requires minimum effort. Another solution that can benefit the society as a whole is practicing circular economy.

Circular economy is the opposite of the traditional linear economy (take-make-dispose) in which we utilize resources for as long as possible, extract their maximum values while they are usable and recover and regenerate when they reach their end life. Put it simply, this economic system is based on the principle of maximizing the economic value out of a product.

Recycling and upcyling are two ways of converting waste or used products like plastics, bottles, and paper to new items that have economic value. By utilizing the economic value contained in a waste, we can reduce the amount of waste disposed of in the landfill and reduce environmental pollution. Furthermore, circular economy increases employment and the economy. The Indonesian Plastics Recyclers (IPR) mentioned that the economic turnover generated only from plastic waste is said to reach up to IDR 6.5 billions.

Here in Anambas, Bawah Anambas Foundation (BAF) introduced the circular economy model to the people of Anambas Islands in 2019. Those who resided in Kiabu village, were taught how to make recycled and upcycled products as part of the organization’s Integrated Waste Management program.

In the first stage we provided them with education on waste sorting and facilities that supported waste management process in order for them to get materials needed to make recycled and upcycled products. 

We then divided the training into two parts: first, an upcycling training conducted by a volunteer from America and Bawah Reserve staff to create bags and pouches from plastic waste; second is a recycling training to create bricks made from plastic and styrofoam as well as candles and soaps from used oils.

The locals are still learning and improving their craft and the foundation continues to provide necessary support needed for the circular economy to run properly. Moreover, Bawah Reserve, a resort located on Bawah Island, has made a commitment to buy these recycled and upcycled products once they reach the required standard set by the resort.

We are also expanding the program beyond Kiabu and glad to receive help from members of women’s group in Kiabu who are willing to share their skills with the people of Telaga village.

In the future, the foundation is planning to conduct a follow-up training via online to improve the quality of the products in order to gain higher economic value. What we hope ultimately is for this initiative to help elevate the locals and improve the economy in Anambas.