Too Much Waste! Indonesia in Crisis of ‘Over-waste’

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Written by Gilbert Givano
The Student of President University in Jakarta, Indonesia 



Indonesia, holding the title of the world’s 4th biggest population with around 266 million people (worldometer), has definitely shown signs of improvement in many social and technological aspects. However, with a population that huge, how long can Indonesia be able to sustain all of the waste of her people? The answer is, not long.

On average, Indonesian people generates 0.76 kg/person/day of solid waste. With a total of 266 million people, that is equivalent to around 202,000 tons of solid waste per day! To give you a picture of how big that is, it is the same with throwing away 34 adult elephants, every day! But the government must have done something in the past few years’ right? True, in 2002, about 45 units of composting pilot projects were developed under “Western Java Environmental Management Project”, furthermore, the re-setting up of ADIPURA Program in 2005 after a failure in Bangun Praja Program, and other efforts made but yields not much of an impact to the environment.

The problem is, Indonesia has been so dependent on incineration. It is not a bad effort, but unfortunately, the waste collection system is just not fit for incineration to work. According to BPS (Badan Pusat Statistik), 76.31% of all the waste generated in 2013 were not thrown separately, this number increase to 81.16% in 2014. This means that the incineration process would not reach its potential with so much waste inserted but little from it can actually be converted to energy.

Another problem is land filling. Land filling has become a common practice in Indonesia even before incineration. Old landfills were just mere dumping station which aim only to ‘dump’ all the waste. But after the issuing of Solid Waste Management Act No.18/2008, all landfills have to be sanitary landfills, which means, waste must be controlled to avoid leach-ate, etc. However, the Operation and Maintenance (O&M) practiced is not for sanitary landfill. This is due to the lack of treatment carried out on incoming waste, irregular soil cover applications, a lot waste pickers pick the waste on site, inadequate leach-ate treatment and landfill gas emissions released to the atmosphere without any treatment.

So what will all these cause? Correct, more and more pollution. Incineration and landfills both produce greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide and methane. Without extra effort, it is just a matter of time before everyone has to wear a face mask when going out due to the terrible air quality.

But what is the solution? It seems like everything is just going downhill from here on. Not exactly. One major problem to this issue is the lack of awareness in our people. Did you know that recycle, reuse and recovery are not supposed to be the main objective of a country? It has to be PREVENTION! Why? When you avoid yourselves from buying plastic or other activities that does not produces a lot of waste, you automatically do not need those 3Rs. The thing is, even with recycling, not 100% is recycled, and most of the time, it is recycled to something that is not recyclable, so what’s the point?

In conclusion, the first thing that we, as Indonesians who love our country, must do is to have that awareness about our environment and build our sustainable future together. Although, I would not say that there must not be any recycling or others. We still need those tools to recover from what has happened. But without any awareness, it will be useless. So, let’s raise the standard of living sustainability and you and I can enjoy the future together.

In the end note, I would like to introduce myself, my name is Gilbert Givano from President University Environmental Engineering major. For more information about us, please visit www.env.president.ac.id and you may follow us on instagram @envpresuniv.

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