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The Trash Banks In Indonesia

trash banks

Teenage kid all covered in plastic bags. Photo credit: Bye Bye Plastic Bags

In Africa and Asia today, trash banks are taking off and is a great way to reduce pressure on the landfill sites that are growing. In addition, it allows the poorest citizens to be able to gain access to both credit and savings. A trip to the landfills in some of these cities will show you just how big the problem is.

In a city like Makassar, Indonesia, a city with 2.5 million residents, 800 tons of trash is produced daily.  Most of it ends up at the land fill, a heap of trash that is 5 stories high and sprawls out over an area that is as big as 2 soccer fields. Here you will find cows and scavengers including children looking for something to eat. It is against this backdrop that trash banking has taken root.

The Trash Banks Model

The model is simple. Residents interested in the program will take trash that is recyclable including packaging, paper and plastic bottles to the banks, which are collection points. Here the trash is weighed and then monetary value is assigned to it. Then, just like any other bank, the customers here can open an account, make a deposit of trash which is given cash value, and from time to time, withdraw funds as needed.

trash benefits the poor

Stack of trashes on Bali’s beaches. Photo Credit: Bye Bye Plastic Bags

The commitment to purchase the trash is made by the city government who will buy it at a set price.  This gives price stability. The government will then sell it to merchants of waste who will ship it off to the paper and plastic mills on Java Island.

The models in other cities are a bit different. There are those where the rubbish can be exchanged for phone cards, payment of electricity bills or for rice. In Mutiara, the trash bank there has a homework program. Here local students offer their services helping the younger ones with homework. They are then paid from the trash bank directly.

In Makassar, the customers are mostly women who collect trash on a part time basis. They save small amounts of money between 2000 and 3000 rupiahs every week. However, those who are dedicated to collecting rubbish are able to save a lot more.

Trash bank benefits the poor

Beach clean-ups. Photo Credit: Bye Bye Plastic Bags

Many times, towards the weeks end when many of their husbands will be receiving their pay checks, many of the women will also borrow money in order to purchase rice. In Makassar, local authorities have the support of a local NGO that has received its funding from Indonesia’s PT Unilever.

How you can help:

Although trash banks benefit the poor, the amount of trash banks currently available is still lagging behind the increasing number of trash. Therefore, we still encourage you to minimize and utilize your trash/plastic waste wisely. Support us and our partner Bye Bye Plastic Bag in raising awareness of plastic waste in Bali.


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