Rice For Plastic
It is mid-October and the two crises that have been shaking the world for months are on the verge of escalating in Indonesia: the pandemic and its economic consequences. The former continues to rage unchecked because hardly anyone is abiding by regulations such as wearing masks and social distancing, and the latter is becoming more dramatic every day, especially in places like ours that heavily depend on tourists. But the country is still sealed off. Visitor visas have not been issued since April and let's face it: who would be willing to do a two-week quarantine in Indonesia first and then another two-week quarantine when returning to their home country? So everything is empty in our village: the hotels, the small homestays, the restaurants, the warungs. Every week we hear about a new bankruptcy, another company gives up and closes its doors forever. Unemployment is rising and rising. In these times, our emergency aid packages with essential food, which we distribute to by now over a hundred families in our village, are more important than ever. And it looks like it will remain that way for the foreseeable future.
However, in our village, the crisis also has a rather unusual effect: Lipah is threatening to drown in plastic waste. Before the crisis, a very committed Balinese father had organised the children of the village, who could earn a small pocket money with donations from hotels and restaurants by jointly collecting the plastic waste once a week. Compared to many other places in Bali our village was clean. But since the schools closed in April, the children are not allowed to meet any more. And so the plastic rubbish piles up at the roadsides or, as in the past, finds its way into the dried-up river, where it waits for the rainy season to begin so that it can be carried into the sea with the floods. The next crisis is looming: an ecological disaster.
That's when we had an idea: we could make the delivery of our emergency aid parcels subject to a small and easily fulfilled condition: each recipient must bring us a rice sack full of plastic waste in order to receive his parcel. With the help of Heike De Haan from the local organisation Peduli Alam, which has been taking care of the transport of the plastic waste throughout the region for years, and our capable colleague Jero Wimega, who instructs the recipients and organises the distribution of the aid packages, the transition to the new mode works out smoothly.
The people approach us with their rice sacks filled with plastic waste and hand it over to Heike. They receive a small receipt and go to Jero Wimega to pick up their aid package. Everyone cooperates. And already on the first day of the project we can look down on an impressive pile of plastic, which is no longer scattered in the ditches of Lipah.
Part of the plastic can be recycled, the rest will be disposed of in the next official landfill.
The operation has been a huge success and we will continue to use this new model for our emergency relief programme in the future: Rice for plastic.