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Fighting waste in Komodo National Park through community ‘trash banks’

18 May 2018

Fighting waste in Komodo National Park through community ‘trash banks’

With its roaming Komodo dragons, sandy beaches, and turquoise-clear waters, Komodo National Park has become one of Indonesia’s tourist magnets. But like its neighbouring island, Bali, it also faces a waste problem.

A study conducted by World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Indonesia showed that Labuan Bajo, the entry port to the park, produced at least 112 m3 of waste every day, equal to 20 garbage trucks. About 30% of the waste is plastic produced by the tourism sector in Labuan Bajo. With limited waste management facilities, the fishing town on Flores island is struggling to cope with the sheer volume of waste.

The existing system, where waste is collected and dumped at temporary disposal sites, is unable to cope. Disposal sites are overwhelmed with solid waste, which later drifts into the sea, littering the shores of Komodo Island and its surrounding smaller islands.

The waste threatens not only the habitat of the endangered Komodo dragons and the park’s underwater ecosystem but also the local economy.

“There are no incentives for the community to take responsibility for their waste,” said Jensi Sartin, who graduated from James Cook University in 2013 with a Master degree in Natural Resources Management.

It’s a stark contrast with what he saw in Australia, where communities are involved in reducing waste.

“Every household has its own trash cans to sort waste into organic waste, inorganic, and garden waste,” he said.

“There’s a pick-up schedule for each type of waste. People have to use paid coupons for dumping waste at the disposal sites. It instils the habit of reducing solid waste independently.”

Jensi, 33, was inspired to adopt Australia’s approach to solve the waste problem in Komodo National Park.

In 2017, Jensi was successful to obtain funding from the Alumni Grant Scheme (AGS), and under a local cooperative, Koperasi Serba Usaha (KSU) Sampah Komodo, he set up a “trash bank” project – a community-based waste management model with an economic approach.

The project aims to provide incentives for people who want to manage their waste. Under the trash bank program, the local communities sort and deliver their waste to KSU Sampah Komodo. In return, KSU will pay them with the revenue from recycling activities or from selling the sorted solid trash to other industries.

With this model, Jensi said, the communities will be more responsible for their trash because they are aware that it has economic value.

“Eventually, it can reduce the amount of trash delivered to disposal sites and cut excess waste that can’t be handled,” added Jensi.

“Low public awareness and limited resources for trash management require an approach that can both increase community participation and reduce the burden of managing waste for the government.”

First, the project teaches the local community how to sort solid waste in stages. Participants are asked to sort their solid waste into inorganic and organic waste. Next, they learn to sort out what can be recycled and what can’t. They can deliver trash with high economic value to KSU or have KSU pick up the waste from their home.

For each kilogram of tin cans sent to KSU, the community gets around 7,000 rupiah and 8,000 rupiah for each kilogram of cardboard. KSU pays 1,000 rupiah per kilogram for plastics waste and 1,300 rupiah per kilogram for iron products.

The AGS grant finances three activities. First, testing the model and practice of community-based waste management with an economic approach through KSU Sampah Komodo. Second, educating the public about trash, especially on incentives to manage trash and the importance of waste sorting. Third, increasing the capacity of waste management and the KSU organisation.

Through the project, providing environmental education and awareness to school students is also a key element. Starting from elementary school to high school level, it teaches the children to care for the environment and simple effective things they can do to protect and conserve our natural and built environments. “Children are also taught that they can save money from sorting their trash. They’re given a bankbook to keep all the records,” said Jensi.

The project is also applied to smaller islands, including Komodo National Park, where so far, three local communities are sending their waste to be managed by KSU Sampah Komodo in Labuan Bajo. At present, KSU Sampah Komodo manages 8-15 tons of trash a month. In the last three months, it has shipped 40 tons of trash to final disposal sites in East Java.

The cooperative is even stepping up its trash pick-up service to serve residences, offices, hospitals, schools, stores, and cruise ships. For its outstanding service, the cooperative has received a plastic shredding machine from Balai Pengelolaan Sumberdaya Pesisir dan Laut (Marine and Coastal Resources Management) Denpasar, which is a technical unit under the Ministry of Marine and Fisheries.

Jensi said to ensure the community-based program maintains sustainability, it’s cooperating with partners such as WWF-Indonesia and the government of West Manggarai Regency.

Are you an Australian alumnus who is keen to create your own impact and apply your studies to the real world? Send your proposals for the Alumni Grant Scheme Round 2 2018 before 28 June 2018.

For more information and application form:

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