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Hidden Frontline in Indonesia


2020 has been an exceptional year for everyone. It feels like the world has been paused as it battles an outbreak across the globe and the undiscovered. For many of us, that is a time to retreat to the security of our houses and await the world to open. However, for some, this isn’t an alternative. Their job should continue for the most essential workers, such as waste workers. In all our efforts in Indonesia, there is one thing that is certain waste workers are an unnoticed frontline for our COVID-19 epidemic.

Workers in developing economies such as Indonesia are typically from marginalized social groups where every penny is important. During Indonesia’s epidemic that swept through the country, we witnessed waste workers in the streets of the capital handling waste using their hands in their own hands, with no masks or glasses to be noticed, and there was no one to help the workers. The public quickly acknowledges their work and how they maintain our streets and houses clear and safe. Still, without them, there will become chaos, widespread diseases, and irreparable damage to our environment.

That’s why Rethinking Recycling Rethinking Recycling saw an opportunity to help our communities by assisting and securing their waste employees during these challenging times. With our partners, Rethinking Recycling came together to offer head-to-toe security and health and safety guidelines and even provide food to the waste workers and their families impacted by the crisis.

At the height of the crisis, everyone working at our pilot sites and other neighboring sites had plenty of goggles, helmets, overalls, masks, and boots, and clean water, soap, and hand sanitizers to keep them secure throughout the day.

Essential protection and economic relief to Waste Workers

At Rethinking Recycling Rethinking Recycling, we share an intense love for education and capacity building, so we seized this opportunity to offer training and to widely distribute materials to make sure that everyone knew the importance of wearing PPE sanitation, as well as social distancing for workers in the waste industry. Our training and guidance materials were seized from our partners at the ministries of public works, environment, and villages and then distributed to more than 70,000 villages across Indonesia.

COVID-19 devastated Bali’s economy, leaving numerous families, including waste pickers and waste pickers, unable to feed their families to eat. We served over 4000 meals to people who work in waste and waste pickers and their family members during the initial lockdown, making life more comfortable during the darkest days. With the help of our Rethinking Recycling program, we increased all wages to the minimum wage, an increase of nearly 200%; also, we ensured accessibility to healthcare and on-the-ground training and coaching.

Our programs will only be efficient if our workers are recognized and are proud of what they have done!

Establishing the Rethinking Recycling Academy

In September 2020, we started in September 2020 our Rethinking Recycling Academy in Denpasar Bali. It provides communities with all the expertise and tools needed to manage a successful recycling program, including access to funds as well as financial and operational management, and, most importantly, workers’ health. In the same way, COVID has impacted our program. What was meant to be an on-the-ground interactive program has now evolved into a fully digital remote learning academy thanks to an E-tech partnership with the Quipper. Through the training of our first Academy group, we hope to improve our students’ lives and create green jobs for 300 people across Denpasar. Every waste worker counts.

Together, we can create an enduring, sustainable ecological system for waste disposal within Bali and other areas.


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Jane S. King

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