Tackling Indonesia’s waste issue: How she is taking things into her own hands to educate the public

Written by Leo Galuh Published on     7 mins read

Nahdya Maulina and Febty Febriani started a community catered to tackling waste management issues after realizing the importance of public education.

How much waste does one produce on a daily basis?

In 2015, statistics from the ministry reported that an average person in Indonesia produces around 0.7Kg of waste daily. While this doesn’t sound like a lot, it can accumulate to an alarming 200000 tonnes of rubbish a day in a country with nearly 270 million people.

Due to urbanization and an increase in consumerism, Indonesia is grappling with a serious waste issue. In March 2020, it was reported that its landfills, where 60 – 70 % of the urban waste goes, are running out of space.

While there might be some sentiments that waste management should be concerned for only at the government level, the fact is that it affects every single individual in the country. Waste sorting, on an individual level, is actually crucial as the last step before it is being carried away to the waste management centers. By sorting out recycled, general, and non-biodegradable waste can help in the process of managing waste. However, despite the government’s attempt to introduce the concept of ‘3R’s (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle) through the country’s first solid waste management laws in 2018, results have not shown to be fruitful.

Despite that, not all hope is lost, for there are individuals who are starting to take the lead in saving the environment on a household level. One of them is Nahdya Maulina (35), the founder of the Indonesian community Komunitas Pilah Sampah (known as waste sorting community).

In the past eight years, Maulina, who is a staff of the Ministry of Environment and Forestry (MoEF) has been sorting her own household waste. Passionate about environmental issues, Maulina has been working in the ministry for the past 10 years. The job provided her with deep knowledge of the waste management issues, including government regulations that accompanied it.

It had initially started as an individual effort. Believing that more than 50% of waste in the environment is contributed by households, she wanted to do her part in tackling the waste issue. This was when she turned to her neighborhood WhatsApp chat groups to call for waste to be sent to her. For anyone who didn’t know what to do with the discarded items, she took it upon herself voluntarily to sort the waste before carrying it to the “waste bank” that was 8km away from her home.

Maulina walks 8km from her house to the “waste bank” after sorting out the disposed items. Photo courtesy of Maulina.

“The waste that I usually receive can be classified into four categories – Electronic waste, used cooking oil, tetra pak packagings, and used cosmetic products,” Maulina says. Some of these wastes are really difficult to handle, for when it comes to electronic products, many individuals would not have an idea what the right way of disposal is.

Leveraging on digital platforms to educate public

Febty Febriani (38), was one of her friends who supported her cause fully and often sent waste to her for sorting. As time went by, Febriani suggested that she create a more visually appealing announcement banner to be circulated within the chat groups. Though a small suggestion, the ladies didn’t expect this to capture the attention of others. The digital flyer that has been created was broadcasted so widely that they noted the increase of waste received from outer Jakarta.

This was when they realized it wasn’t that people weren’t concerned about waste management, but rather that they didn’t have a clue how to do so, or where their waste ended up in. After finding out the crux of the issue, Maulina and Febriani understood that it wasn’t enough to just sort waste for others. Public education was as important as well, for it is only then that people would take action.

A past campaign design visual. Photo courtesy of Maulina.

Eventually, the two ladies established Komunitas Pilah Sampah in June 2020. Making use of digital platforms, their Instagram official account aims to create a community to help people get better and clearer information with regards to sorting waste. By raising awareness, they hope to empower other households to do the same in their very own homes. Maulina mentions how she often campaigns on solving waste problems through the digital platform, and regularly does research to be produced as bite-sized visual information.

Each Thursday and Saturday of the week, Komunitas Pilah Sampah would also allow everyone to send their waste to Maulina’s home. However, this was not a long-term approach, as she started to face limitations. That was when she came up with the idea to gather all inorganic waste collectors across the country.

“Some of these movements are not familiar for the local people due to the daily routines and lack of information,” Maulina said. By collecting and announcing all those movements in Komunitas Pilah Sampah’s account, it will help people to send their waste to the nearest collectors, instead of sending it over to Java Island. Komunitas Pilah Sampah would always seek their approval and permission first before announcing it.

Currently, Komunitas Pilah Sampah has been cooperating with waste management service provider Armada Kemasan Nusantara and household waste management firm Kalimuda Energy. Every Thursday, Armada Kemasan Nusantara would visit her house to collect the sorted waste.

“Since January to March 2021, Armada Kemasan Nusantara has collected around 299 kilograms of waste from my home. We have also collected four jerrycans with 18 liters capacity each.” Maulina shared. She has also managed to donate those cosmetic materials and tools to Maraton Kebaikan, which was managed by Gloria Elsa Hutasoit.

Everyone’s Role Needed

When asked about the mission of Komunitas Pilah Sampah, Maulina explained how the mission is not only to overcome waste sorting problems but to amplify the importance of being self-responsible in handling our own produced waste.

Maulina is the founder of Komunitas Pilah Sampah, a community that aims to educate the public about household waste management. Photo courtesy of Maulina.

“It should start from our households. There is no way that we can close our eyes to the amount of waste that we are producing, once you’ve seen the alarming numbers,” she added.

This never-ending task should be done by everyone, and not only rely on the governments. In the interview, Maulina shared MoFE’s regulation stating that waste sorting needs to be conducted from the sources, for example, market, school, household, and many more. Nevertheless, she agreed that the implementation is not that easy.

Maulina warned us about the implications that we could face if we do not take action. Wastage leak is very probable from plastic bags when it is carried to the Temporary Trash Disposal Sites (TPS) then to Final Disposal Site (TPA). The TPA in South Tangerang City, Banten province, 30 kilometers southwest from Jakarta, is located near the river. These leaks could harm the river ecosystem along the journey to TPS and TPA, she noted.

“It will pollute the water and harm our health,” Maulina warned.

This is not the only issue. Unbeknown to many, the Indonesian TPA is actually not entirely the finish line of waste. TPA has its role to process the waste that is very hard to be recycled and needs some technology to do so. This waste that can’t be broken down naturally in one single time includes baby diapers and sanitary napkins.

Maulina shares how the garbage that piles up could risk public health, as it produces severe air pollution after rain pours. It is ultimately our own health that we are dealing with.

Delivering Core Messages

Since the establishment of Komunitas Pilah Sampah, Maulina has seen a current total of 3,000 followers. She believes that the community has been successful in raising awareness to the issues, noting that some people have changed their attitudes when it comes to waste management. Sorting waste has started to become an action that they would take before disposal.

Maulina continues to see the importance in educating the public about the issue and puts her efforts to ensure that new knowledge is gained. During the lockdown period in Indonesia, Maulina shares how her community had invited an expert from the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI) to introduce plastic medical waste destruction technology. This allowed her followers to gain new information on how the situation is dealt with at different levels.

Despite the lockdown, Maulina has managed to host talks via digital platforms to keep her followers engaged with new information. Photo courtesy of Maulina.

When asked about her upcoming plans, Maulina shared that she aims to develop a “how-to guide for sorting waste at home.” In their upcoming event, she wants to share how every waste material has different treatments.

Maulina also dreams to build One Stop Environmental Services where people could enjoy many 3R products – Reduce, Reuse, Recycle in the long term. She envisions that to be a place where visitors could bring their inorganic waste to be processed, but also learn about waste management.

After all, if we don’t start with ourselves, there is no one else that can help us make the world a better place to live.

Leo Galuh is an Indonesian based journalist for analytical news service. He loves to meet people and generate ideas for stories. He believes that everyone has an inspiring story that worth-reading. Leo travels a lot and always craves mouth-watering cuisine. Read more of his adventures on HalalTrip.

Disclaimer: This article was written by a community contributor. All content is written by and reflects the personal perspective of the writer. If you’d like to contribute, you can apply here


Leo Galuh


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