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In 2015, I was visiting family in Indonesia after finishing a degree in environmental science and working as a waste consultant in Australia. It was very frustrating to see again so much waste dumped in nature and the places people lived. In the absence of choice, the only access to safe drinking water is bottled and the only option for waste disposal is dumping it.

In 2015, a report by Janne Jambeck said that over 80 percent of the plastics in the oceans come from urban areas via rivers and coastlines. The majority of which came from the parts of the world without access to basic waste services.

While doing research on ocean plastic solutions, I came across waste banks. They are community-owned spaces were locals bring their recyclables and trade it for cash, health insurance and other essentials. There is an existing network of thousands of waste banks across Indonesia, some were very successful capturing thousands of tons of waste per month while others could barely stay open. I wondered how could we support this incredible existing network of community waste banks to become so good that they can all operate everyday, collect recyclables and so create jobs. How great would it be if the answer to stopping ocean plastic was at a grassroots level, empowering communities with access to basic waste services?

After that trip, we came up with the idea of For Purpose Recycling, paying locals for their collected plastic waste and recyclables via waste banks through the sale of our belts made from recycled plastic. By purchasing one belt, you are preventing ten kilograms of trash from entering the oceans.


Erik Sumarkho

Why Indonesia?

As the world’s largest archipelagic nation, Indonesia’s rich marine resources form the backbone of its economy and identity. About 70% of the population lives in coastal areas and the ocean economy generates one quarter of the country’s GDP. Despite its dependence on a healthy and profitable marine environment, Indonesia releases the equivalent of almost 2,000 Boeing 747 aircraft full of plastic into the ocean every year (about 1 million tons). Pollution at this scale threatens to devastate the livelihood of communities across Indonesia. Impacting artisanal fishing practices, sustainable tourism and serving as vessels to spread diseases. As well, it damages the rich marine biodiversity and extensive mangrove, seagrass, and coral reef habitats needed for a healthy ecosystem.