Blog post by Ecobrick team member Russell Maier, on the road in East Java

A forest of cengkeh (clove trees) in, Bayukidul Songgon, an colonial era Banyuwangi plantation.

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. 

Gardening plastic with no where to go in Banyuwangi

 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.

An open air Ecobrick workshop at the Festival

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!)

Carly, Bebe, Ani and Russell demonstrate how to Ecobrick

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. 

Bagus, the youngest member of the Bali Ecobrick team, shows how it’s done.

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. 

 Ecobricks will now be spreading in Banyuwangi! 🙂