An excavator collects rubbish at Rawa Kucing landfill in Tangerang on Monday. (JG Photo/Yudha Baskoro)
Life Is Plastic, but Not Fantastic
BY :YUDHA BASKORO
OCTOBER 14, 2019
Dozens of scavengers were busy collecting rubbish on Monday at the Rawa Kucing landfill in Neglasari near the city of Tangerang in Banten, barely an hour's drive from the capital Jakarta.
More than 20 hectares of the 32.8-hectare landfill are already swamped in garbage, and more are coming in every day.
Tangerang won the prestigious Adipura Kencana environmental award in 2014 and 2017 for being the cleanest metropolitan in Indonesia, but the achievement has done nothing to reduce the amount of garbage dumped at Rawa Kucing.
At least 1,400 tons of garbage are sent to Rawa Kucing every day from homes, factories, markets and shopping centers in the city.
The landfill tries to do its bit in recycling. It distributes methane produced by its mountains of rubbish to households around the area to be used for cooking.
Household waste is also processed into compost for the city. Meanwhile, plastic waste from factories and shopping centers are sorted by the scavengers and then sold or recycled.
The anti-plastic trend has not been kind to the scavengers at Rawa Kucing, whose livelihood depends on collecting plastic waste.
Fifty-year-old Ardi and his 45-year-old wife Aci, who have been scavenging plastic bottles at Rawa Kucing for years, say they now don't earn enough to pay for their daily meals.
According to them, many beverage and food manufacturers have begun to replace their single-use plastic packaging with biodegradable plastic.
Biodegradable plastic is lighter than single-use plastic and since scavengers like Ardi and Aci are paid by the weight of the plastic they collect, they consequently earn less and less from their back-breaking labor.
The couple live in a makeshift tent made of plywood at the landfill, where they also put their garbage stash before they sell it to a "pengepul" (garbage collector).
On average, they now sell 10-13 sacks of plastic every day for Rp 30,000 ($2). They used to be able to get Rp 50,000 for 10 sacks.