Blog post by Ecobrick team member Russell Maier, on the road in East Java
These last few days, the Bali Ecobrick team and I are off on an expedition to Banyuwangi, East Java, Indonesia. We’ve been meeting community leaders and just regular folks who have no idea about plastic’s dangerous properties. This part of Indonesia reminds me of the Philippines– lush, green, rich culture– and no waste management at all. The folks we are meeting are thus super receptive.
Yesterday at the ‘Makarya’ Festival (which aptly means “let’s do something!”), we did an open air workshop. The whole area filled up with over a hundred people.
People were super interested– they don’t know much about plastic and want to learn. My observation here as as in other places is that plastic pollution here is a direct consequence of simple ignorance. When I asked the crowd what plastic is made of, not one person could answer. When we asked how people disposed of their plastic, they answered with a chorus of “Bakar!” (Burn!)
I was fascinated to observe the crowd — teenagers, men, women– all in rapt attention as Ani talked about how burning plastic creates worse chemicals (dioxins) that are bad for us. I shared how plastic baby bottles are banned in Canada. We discussed how the sun breaks plastic into smaller and smaller toxic particles. This was all a revelation to them.
When we started ecobricking the great big pile of plastic from the festival disappeared as young and old jumped in to learn how to Ecobrick. Several schools, government and women’s group had sent delegations.
In the city of Jogjakarta, Indonesia, where ecobricking is taking off, we’ve met many women leaders who have been stockpiling their plastic for years. After learning of the dangers of plastic in a workshop four years ago, Ibu Bakhriah Sofiatun insisted on buying the silver wrapper plastic from her neighbours. If she hadn’t, she knew all too well that they would throw it in the nearby river or burn it.
She had no idea what to do with the big bags of it, so for 3 years she stockpiled over 40kgs. When she learned about ecobricking she was overjoyed, “This is a solution!”. Now she is not only ecobricking all this plastic, but also teaching her neighbours what to do with theirs. Here she sits proudly on the ecobrick stools that she has been making with the Jogja “Sahabat Sampah” team.
Incredibly, Ibu Sofi isn’t alone. We’ve met half a dozen women who are now transforming their stockpiled plastic into ecobricks, overjoyed to finally put it to use. When we tried to borrow ecobricks from a local women’s group last week, we we’re met with resistance. “Sorry, but we all want to make our own benches and tables for our home’s now”.
So this is tremendous. Everyday we are receiving photos from our team of trainers in Jogja. Everyday they are visiting a new neighbourhood and conducting seminars and trainings.
The trainers are visiting every single neighbourhood in the Jogjakarta city area. This will be the first city in Indonesia to integrate ecobricking not only as a solid waste management technique– but as a mass raising of ecological consciousness: Each of the people in these photos has learned not just how to ecobrick– but the dangers of plastic, the fallacy of recycling, and the concept of cradle-to-cradle creating.
All the trainers are also logging their ecobricks using our Ecobricks App. Its a simple application based on wordpress and google docss, but it is doing the trick. The trainers and the neighborhoods are excited to see their ecobricks registered and to see their part in the growing community movement. Through embedded live google charts, we can also see the process unfold live. Its exciting. We already have plans to advance and improve the app.
Come World Environment Day, we will have some super inspiring stats to share on how much plastic has been transformed– making Jogja’s example a beacon of inspiration to other cities.
Below is a field blog post from one of our lead trainers.
Post by Ani Himawati
Woaaa can’t believe but this is true. Every single day I receive news and pics from friends (mostly ibu2) from the bank sampah activists from Jogja, the trainers of Ecobricks that just less than a month ago we did the TOT conducted by The Yogyakarta Environment Agency!!
Started from 17 March til soon 7 April, the sampah activists, the Ecobricks trainers have been going around each Kelurahan (village) in the whole city of Jogja, presenting about environmental issues and teaching how to Ecobricks!!! Not only that, they also reach each RW – hamlet or sub village – to meet more people, more communities!!
This seems like a real movement!! People’s movement!! Something has been shifting here. Sampah, trash, used plastics, which before were only taken care or dealt by certain people (Pemulung, scavengers, maybe lower class people, kind of dirty and dark area that only few groups wanna deal with), now is changing. Through Ecobricks, more people, more groups, no matter what social class they belong to, now they are keen to work on trash especially used plastic. Look at the pics!!! The workshops have been happening in each village offices, people’s houses, in the complex of mosques, the yard or terrace, …
Not only that, the most important and relieving is that, people start understanding *why* we need to ecobrick? What’s the foundation and philosophy behind doing this hard work? More comprehensive knowledge about plastic, the facts of the plastic production, about recycling’s issue, what the danger when we do wrong with plastics, what the effect to our environment if we are not aware, what will happen in the near and long term future if we don’t care about them, how we need to change our life style and our consumption behaviour, … and what we can do with the used plastic or trash and even make them as part of the solution. *wew .. I should stop here!!
And of course Jogja case would not happen if the gov agency did not take Ecobrick as an official program and make it as an opportunity to work with communities!!! And saluuuuuut for all ibu2 and bapak2 and anak2 muda who are so keen spreading and working on this!!