Our friend Ketut Darmawan from Tangkas decided he would find a solution, and in 2016 he did. He established the Tangkas Village Recycling Program (TPS) which picks up garbage every two days from the 300 households it serves. TPS staff then recycles 93% of the waste. The organic materials are turned into compost which farmers use in their fields and the plastics, glass and metals are recycled. Darmawan was the engine behind this effort, and he built a coalition of supporters including the Klungkung Regional government who paid to build the recycling center, the Tangkas village government who helped pay for its staff and operations and Keep Bali Beautiful which set up the Eat, Pray, Recycle Tour to cover the remaining operational costs. An award-winning video by film-maker Jillian Li beautifully describes the system. You can view the video here.
After TPS proved successful, the question arose:
Can this operation be scaled up to be used as a model for other villages and regions in Bali?
You bet it could. Thanks to Klungkung’s innovative Governor, I Nyoman Suwirta, funding and leadership by Indonesia’s federal government under President Jokowi and most especially Darmawan’s gifted management skills, there is now an efficient regional waste management system that has replicated the Tangkas village success.
You must give a lot of credit to Governor Suwirta. He provided seed money to the Tangkas village program, and watched to see if Darmawan could achieve his goals. When the TPS proved successful, he plucked Darmawan out of the private sector and gave him the government job of creating a regional waste management system. Most importantly, the Governor gave Darmawan the capital funds to build it out. About the same time, Bali’s provincial government also pitched in with funds as did the national government. Jokowi’s administration also wrote policies to establish federal recycling and waste management standards. And perhaps the hardest step of all: Balinese citizens began to change their minds and became very supportive of efforts to clean up their villages and towns.
Organic waste converted into fertilizer
In less capable hands this mashup of village, regional, provincial, and federal agencies, plus the private sector could have spelled disaster. But Darmawan with his rare combination of management and political skills wove together a workable and efficient system.
I saw the system in operation at the region’s central waste processing facility, whose acronym ironically is TOSS. This is where the City of Semarapura’s waste is processed. Every two days a truck picks up waste from the city’s households. (Commercial operations like the local market receive everyday pickup.)
They return to TOSS where workers sort the waste into four categories:
- Organic waste
- Recyclable materials (glass, metal, and plastic) that can be sold
- Residue that is sold in bulk
- Leftover waste that is trucked to the dump
Workers sorting plastic for recycling
In addition, village recycling operations like the TPS in Tangkas have been set up in 42 of the Klungkung region’s 53 villages.
The operation has been an unqualified success. Before, all of this garbage would have been dumped into the river, burned or piled up at the dump. Now, nearly 97% of it is recycled or reused. The organic waste, which makes up the bulk of the waste stream, is made into compost which is provided to farmers.
The recycling operation requires a whole team of workers to first sort the materials into bags for glass, metal, and the many types of plastic that can be recycled. These range from high value plastic which sells for 1,200rp (eight cents) per ton to lower value plastic bags which sell for 300rp (two cents) per ton. The sorting is supervised by Bali Waste Cycle staff. Every day one of their trucks arrives to pick up the recycled products. Bali Waste Cycle then combines Klungkung’s recycled products with those from its other clients in Denpasar and other places.
The residue waste stream is composed of bits of plastic, dirt and other junk that cannot be composted or recycled. Villagers often burned this junk or tossed it into the street. But now it’s collected and sent to a manufacturer in Surabaya where it’s mixed into cement and becomes part of Indonesia’s expanding road and freeway infrastructure. The remaining 3% is trucked to the dump in Dawan village. The goal is to reduce this amount to zero.
Darmawan giving a tour to school kids
Education is also an important part of Darmawan’s mission. There are regular tours of TOSS by school groups who learn about the benefits of recycling. Darmawan also works with Eco Clubs at Klungkung’s high schools which help in spreading the word and supporting the system.
Loading fertilizer composted from organic waste for delivery to farmers
For the most part, Klungkung citizens are enthusiastic about the system. Pak Gus Gangga from Dawan is excited about the improvements noting the reduced truck traffic in his village. He also cheered when a new village recycling center recently opened in Dawan. He’s observed that the village is cleaner and free from the trash that once was freely tossed. Currently, Klungkung citizens are paying very little for the program. Federal law sets household costs at 3,000rp a month (about 20 cents US). By contrast, a 20kg bag of rice costs 250,000rp. Commercial and industrial waste pickup costs are also established by federal policy.
The low prices charged to citizens and businesses create support for the program, but they hardly pay the cost for the operations. For example, while monthly operational costs are about 310,000,000RP per month, fee revenue is about 17 million RP or about 5%. Government subsidies make up the difference for now.
It’s a huge success, but Darmawan is still working to make it even better. He’s working to build village recycling centers in places that don’t yet have them, and he’s continuing to make the system work better and more efficiently.
Where Klungkung has succeeded, other regions have room for improvement. But there appears to be growing interest in following Klungkung’s example. In fact, the Besakih Temple Foundation contracted with Darmawan and his partners to clean up and recycle waste at the temple complex.
One way to learn more about the program is to join Keep Bali Beautiful’s Eat, Pray, Recycle tour where you visit Tangkas village and get to know a Balinese family. During this 4-hour trip you’ll visit a beach temple, join a Balinese ceremony honoring Tri Hita Karena (harmony with nature, community, and the Gods). You’ll also participate in a beach cleanup, visit the recycling center and have lunch with your village hosts.
Dave Fogarty is Head Cheerleader for Keep Bali Beautiful, a grassroots recycling program that partners with local schools and villages to build a sustainable recycling network, as well as to change the beliefs and habits that lead to pollution