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The Reality of Fixing Waste and Recycling


What a recent trip to Bali is triggering our innovative scaling strategies

What specifically does Delterra do to repair broken recycling and waste management systems?

Take a trip to a neighborhood that is urban located in Bali, Indonesia, where Delterra has been working for the last three years to develop solutions to the issue of waste. Delterra’s leadership team, Indonesia team, and partners recently came together to discuss how best to expand the pilots across Bali and throughout Indonesia and other countries within the region.

The Bali you won’t see on social media.

Bali is famous worldwide for its stunning beaches, jungle villas, and yoga retreats. The island is visited by millions of people every year and is also the home of Bali’s G20 Leaders’ Summit this November, which will be the main focus of the globe.

It’s a dreamy getaway in the eastern region of the Indian Ocean. However, those who are residents of the area, understand that daily realities are far from idyllic.

One reality is the rising amount of plastic pollution and other waste that are adding to the already over-capacity landfill and spilling into the ocean and the environment.

As with many countries in the world south that have an ancestry of colonization, Indonesia needs more capital infrastructure, infrastructure, and systems to manage waste effectively. The Indonesia National Plastic Action Partnership estimates that removing plastic waste “requires capital investments of around $18 billion for waste management and recycling between 2017 and 2040, and an estimated $1 billion per year increase in operational financing for solid waste management systems by 2040”.

However, since “waste” is composed of valuable substances that could be put to productive utilization within the circular economy report suggests that this isn’t all sunk costs. “The investment opportunity into circular economy sectors could grow to about $10 billion per year in revenue by 2040, driven by increased sales of recycled plastic, substitutable materials and revenue from new business models.”

Who will do the work necessary to fix broken systems, create new business models, and make the circular economy work? They are intended to serve as an experiment that could be quickly rolled out across the island and throughout the nation.

The real-world implications of repairing an unsound system

Many households weren’t separating garbage, which is why Delterra implemented colored waste bins (green, red, yellow) and various behavior change programs that included door-to-door training on the separation of organics from recycling and garbage. We enlisted the assistance of local officials to help reinforce these habits, which proved to be a successful and essential element.

The team collaborates with local recycling centers to collect garbage and recyclable material from bins and charges a modest fee for pick-up service. Waste and fees are generally managed through a private arrangement (versus by municipal taxes or management as in some other nations) which has led to an informal market driven by fees for collection and the materials that are of an amount – all other waste is disposed of in a landfill.

In 2017, we launched our Rethinking Recycling Academy Business Accelerator Program, which aims to generate value from recycling and prevent most materials from being thrown away. The program features a custom financial operation platform, user education, and financial literacy for recycling centers owned by communities.

After materials reach the recycling facilities, we instruct the workers who handle waste to sort the different materials streams and then sell them to buyers if a market exists. This is particularly effective for glass, metals, and certain plastics (e.g., PET bottles, plastic containers). Most of the waste stream is organic, with few buyers (e.g., compost). It is also the case for plastics with a lower value (flexible or soft plastics).

We have succeeded in helping our citizens sort their garbage and establishing viable businesses operated and owned by the local community.

Local ownership is the most likely to result in long-term change and allow Delterra to rethink its approach and look at other regions. The six communities we tested were merely proof of concept. We’ve learned a lot during the last three years; we’re now able and continue to expand the strategy to many more people and to make substantial progress toward tackling the issue of plastic waste.

We are working together to develop scalable solutions.

This motivated the gathering of our leadership team and partners in Bali to determine how to expand this model to Bali and Indonesia.

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Jane S. King

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