What a waste! Indonesia members get their hands dirty to figure out best ways to tackle waste management

by Stacey Choe

APC Indonesia came together in January on a topic quite different from usual – waste management.  The topic was selected after it came up last year that many Indonesian members were interested in this area and have already been addressing this in their business through different strategies and models.  The sustainable strategy that kept popping up was to approach this in a holistic way, addressing the value chain as a circular economy.  Mckinsey.org’s Global Director in Sustainable Communities hence kicked off the meeting with a presentation on their pilot project in Bali, working together with the local Desa’s, the communities, and the PRAISE alliance of manufacturers (Indofood, Coca-Cola, Tetrapak, Nestle, Unilever and Danone).

McKinsey.org’s approach worked on behavioural change within the stakeholders, which was acknowledged as one of the biggest challenge.

Due to its size and scope of influence in building cities, Jababeka is involved in many different aspects of waste management.  From low-cost projects in recycling paper into artisanal products, and turning organic waste into compost, Jababeka also borrows heavy on innovative technology in its waste management.  One of the programmes is the installation of “Biopores”, infiltration pores which decompose organic waste and help absorb soil water from rain.  This not only contributes to their organic waste management but is an integral part of the environment protection of the area.  Pak Tjahjadi even provided souvenirs of their compost for the roundtable attendees.

The most exciting project to garner interest from the other members was the Food Chain Reactor Organica Waste Water Treatment Plant, which is a complete wastewater treatment solution including solids removal, biological treatment/nutrient removal, phase separation, and final treatment for reuse quality (if required), all incorporated into a compact, single structure.  Compared to other waste water treatment plants, this requires 28% less energy and reduces 35% sludge production.

Although only in the trial process, members were keen to visit and witness the technology as they were impressed by the relatively small required area, inclusion of plants and eco-friendliness of the plant.

Djarum shared about their VRM organic waste management programme which produces humus soil, which they then re-use for their Trees for Life replanting programme.  On top of their own organic waste, they also work with restaurant chains in the vicinity to collect their food waste.  Djarum is encouraging other members to contribute their waste to the project for efficacy.

The highlight of the evening was a schooling in plastics waste management by Chandra Asri and Pak Agus Pangestu.  Although the presentation started by explaining their Asphalt Plastic project, as a solution to reduce plastic waste, Pak Agus later explained the company’s immediate to long term plans in addressing the widespread problem of marine debris.

However, he first challenged the current narrative and data that Indonesia is one of the world’s contributor of marine plastics.  Firstly, he pointed out that plastics is unfairly getting a bad reputation these days, and in order to address the real problems properly, we have to realise that plastics is still essential and helpful, especially for long term plastic usage in building materials and other longer-usage products.  Based on internal and open data, there is still potential to address the “unmanaged waste” and “managed unwell collected waste” for recycling and treatment.

Pak Agus also called on McKinsey to work on more research on better technologies to tackle waste sorting problems.  Chandra Asri is also working with Stanford and other researchers to come up with different plastic solutions but this will take a long time and more immediate actions need to be taken to solve the current problem.  He reiterated that the company is committed and aligned to the President’s promise to reduce plastic waste to as much as 70% by 2025.

The group agreed that there should be more follow-up on this topic following this meeting and was excited to contribute to effectively addressing Indonesia’s waste and plastic problems.  APC will help to surface other models and technologies for learning and exchange then.

Please contact APC if you would like more information on the presentation materials or would like to bring the waste management discussion to your community.