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A bank for your waste?

Posted by Erik Sumarkho Spiniello on
A bank for your waste?

If you thought all banks were evil then think again. 

A long time ago in a far away land, a group of women tired of seeing their local rivers and waterways polluted with trash decided to do something about it. The woman in Surabaya (Indonesia) began by hosting small community meetings to educate people about composting and recycling, and in just two years the community had diverted about three-quarters of the waste from rivers and landfills. That’s boss, very boss.

Before they knew it, all sorts of people like uni students, teachers and others began to join the ranks of the small group of women unified under a single purpose of common good and gotong royong (mutual cooperation).

Inspired by this story, a public health lecturer named Bambang Suwerda decided to create a waste collecting facility where community members could directly exchange recyclables for cash. So it was in this year of 2008 that the first waste bank was born. Brought to life by Bambang life’s work of promoting environmental health, waste banks were created as a place for community members to exchange trash for cash, health insurance, school fees and other essentials. 

The first insight of this story is that Bambang Suwerda is as cool as Elon Musk. The second is that waste banks are considered one of the most effective methods for providing access to waste collection in Indonesia, which is now home to over 8,036 community waste banks spread across 34 provinces. 

So even though at first waste banks may sound like a pyramid scheme, they are actually a tried and tested way for preventing trash from polluting waterways and creating income to those keen to recycle their waste.

Okay, but you haven't told me how waste banks actually prevent ocean plastic.

Without bins and a place to put waste in, the only options left are to burn or dump it into the environment. In fact, uncollected waste accounts for 75% of land-based leakage of plastic entering the oceans. 

While the common image of waste collection involves municipal garbage trucks and bins, it can actually take many forms. And in this case, it takes the form of a bank.

Waste banks buy recyclable materials from households, businesses, and sometimes waste pickers at conveniently located collection points. Some pay in cash for the recyclables whereas others provide the equivalent in electricity, cell phone credit, or school fees. Collection points can be set-up at schools, small shops, and waste transfer stations— or be mobile to make it easier for the community to take part. 

The point is, many parts of the world don’t have the resources to build and maintain their own waste management infrastructure. For this, For Purpose Recycling supports existing and the development of new community waste banks in Indonesia to provide access to basic waste services while preventing ocean plastic. We want communities to feel empowered to create self-sustaining systems that make our support obsolete.