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Recycling firm battles Jakarta's plastic waste emergency

·2-min read

As Indonesia's capital Jakarta grapples with overflowing plastic waste and pollution pours into the sea, one burgeoning business is trying to turn rubbish into revenue.

Tridi Oasis Group, which employs 120 people, has recycled more than 250 million bottles since it was founded six years ago.

"I don't see discarded plastic as trash. For me, it is a valuable material in the wrong place," 35-year-old founder Dian Kurniawati told AFP.

Indonesia has pledged to reduce plastic waste by 30 percent over the next three years -- a mammoth task in the Southeast Asian nation of nearly 270 million people where plastic recycling is rare.

The country generates approximately 7.8 million tonnes of plastic waste every year, with more than half mismanaged or disposed of improperly, according to the World Bank.

Kurniawati's company receives plastic from recycling centres across the greater Jakarta area -- which has 30 million people -- at its factory in Banten province outside the city.

Then the company exports recycled plastic to European countries and also distributes it locally to be processed and used as packaging or textiles.

Kurniawati resigned from her consultant job to start the firm, tackling head-on the massive challenges faced by the world's fourth most populous country in dealing with the plastic crisis.

As one of the initiators of the "Beach Clean Up Jakarta" movement, she saw how Jakarta is littered with plastic waste and was frustrated that little was being done to change the situation.

- 'Our problem' -

Hundreds of piles of crushed clear plastic bottles sit piled neatly in the Banten factory, ready to be sorted to make sure no labels or caps are left behind.

The bottles are then cleaned thoroughly to eliminate contamination before being cut into small flakes, ready to be transported to clients for processing and reuse as packaging or textiles.

Fajar Sarbini, a 24-year-old employee, hopes more Indonesians will start recycling.

"People throw away their waste mindlessly, they should at least sort out sharp materials so they won't hurt garbage collectors," he said.

Jakarta does not have a municipal collection system for household waste and has no incineration facilities.

With green trends rising and the will of younger generations to live more sustainably growing, the country is not without hope.

"Indonesia is catching up and the acceleration is quite fast because we got help from social media and youth campaigns," Kurniawati said.

But she said the waste problem facing the country is enormous and the regulation to encourage plastic to be recycled is lacking.

"Plastic waste is our problem and solving it takes a concerted effort from everybody," she said.

"It can't be solved by just the government or recycling companies."

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