Like the ten-metre high recycled plastic installation by Eko Nugroho on Potato Head Beach Club’s facade, we hope that our that our sustainable festival stage brings attention to the threat that plastic pollution poses on Bali’s coastlines, forests and communities.
One thousand truckloads of unprocessed garbage are piled into Bali’s poorly managed landfill sites every day, according to Sean Nino, a waste management specialist from Mantra, Bali. Around half of this goes to Suwung dump in Serangan, emanating a rotting stench for a kilometre radius and sending out unhealthy levels of bacteria into the air.
Trash can often be seen burning on the roadside, tarnishing the air and endangering local peoples’ health. Ordinarily immaculate shorelines have, at times, made international headlines for their mucky, plastic-laden condition, with wet season tides spewing up beer bottles, instant noodle packaging, and synthetic junk of all descriptions.
While plastic pollution is a global issue, our small island of Bali is still in the fledgling phase of implementing proper waste disposal systems and recycling facilities, but now a few dedicated residents have started doing what they can to turn things around for the better.
Urging local people to see value in everyday refuse, MPH and its aspiration of village-owned waste management throughout Bali was born in the sleepy surf haven of Pererenan.
On land donated by the local banjar (village system), Sean, and a passionate team of volunteers from Dojo coworking space and Desa Pererenan, have built a small waste sorting plant and composting facility. Here, a team of local workers are employed in garbage collection, sorting and composting.
Around 100 households cooperate in MPH’s scheme, plied with old rice sacks and recycled green buckets to sort wet and dry rubbish at home. Personal connections with the MPH team, often their own family members, means that they are happy (or at least obliged) to do their bit.
“If we separate our waste, everything becomes a material. It is easy to manage,” reiterates Sean. When kitchen scraps get muddled in with plastics for example, the latter becomes contaminated and unfit for recycling.
After collection, dry materials (plastics, paper, glass and metals) are put aside to be sold to the recycling industry. Food and garden waste goes outside, where the workers rotate it, sift out any odd debris and allow fungi and bacteria to break it down naturally. The result is a nutrient-rich compost, ready for bagging, selling to surrounding farmers and eventually being re-introduced into the ground to nourish new crops.
In essence, MPH is creating a circular economy; materials are circled and redistributed to gain as much value as possible. The team is even in the process of making fuel from salvaged plastics with their pyrolysis machine.
Engaging the area’s big villas is the next step. MPH requests a fee of IDR 200,000 (USD 15) per month from the owners of more upscale properties. In return, owners get timely garbage collection and a guarantee that their waste will be handled responsibly. This extra revenue, combined with the profit from selling recyclables and compost, will, in turn, pay the salaries of MPH’s local staff.
Sean hopes that the Pererenan plant will be fully functioning and self sustaining by the end of the year. “The goal of this first project is to do research; it’s only possible to scale a solution when we have good and valid data,” he explains. Phase two is replicating the village’s community-owned waste management system throughout the island.
In Indonesia, around 70 percent of household waste is organic and can be made into compost. The other 30% is plastics, paper and metals. It all has value and everything can be re-purposed if we design the environment into our products and solutions.
The MPH model is proving on a small scale, that the value can stay with the village and with the people, rather than rotting in the island’s overflowing dumps and illegal landfills.