Saturday, 4 August 2018

Zero Waste in Indonesia: What, Where and How

For a couple years now, I've been talking about starting a zero-waste lifestyle. In fact, I think it was part of my yearly resolution a while back. However, so far, I've been moving in such a goddamn slow pace and it has yet to become a reality. Until now. The whole #plasticfreejuly situation really piqued my interest, so I started actually researching on zero-waste stores and tools available in Indonesia. After refraining to eat out almost at all, I ended up still having so much money in my account towards the end of last month—okay, not enough to call myself even slightly loaded, but enough to invest on said tools. When I tell my friends this or show them the items, they seem to want to participate but don't really know where to start or how to buy them, so today I thought it would be a great idea to share some of the information I've gathered in the last month on how to live life with a little less negative impact on the environment and how you, too, can start now—even if you do live in Indonesia.


Okay, I'll divide the tools into two groups. The first group is items I've gathered to this day, which may not be a lot, but things that I feel are mostly available in every household. It consists of water bottle/tumbler, reusable glass/jarsreusable cutlery, lunch box, tote bag, small produce bag, bar soap and shampoo, compostable tooth brush, compostable cotton buds and reusable straw. In the zero-waste community, a lot of people seem to use compostable cutlery, but to be honest, I usually just bring whatever reusable cutlery I have from home. Small produce bags are useful to replace the plastic bags we usually use to weigh and carry our fruit and vegetables—comes in regular cotton and mesh. Compostable tooth brushes usually have bamboo handles with nylon hairs—so remove the hairs before composting. Reusable straws are usually made out of either bamboo, glass or stainless steel—in various sizes and colours. Bar soap and shampoo is the best! You can use it for your facial skin, your body skin and your hair. All in one and ready to go.

photo via

The second group is items that I'm still saving/on the lookout for. These are things that are specific to the zero-waste lifestyle—or are essential to reusing as many items as possible. They are most likely not easily found in most Indonesian household. They consist of menstrual cup/reusable menstrual pad, compost bin, cotton breathing mask, pouch for cutlery/tooth brush, cloth kitchen spongebig produce bag and zero-waste bathroom products. If you're a woman, switching to a reusable menstrual product will cut down your waste emission a whole lot. My personal preference is the menstrual cup, but if you're not comfortable with that there are also reusable menstrual pads that you can wash after every use. A compost bin, I feel, is really advisable to generate a close-loop cycle of using any sort of products—you won't ever waste food again. Breathing mask is highly important to those of you who take the public transport or ride motorcycle all the time—protect yourself from the pollution, you know.

Obviously, there are still various other items you can get to really kick into a zero-waste/low-impact lifestyle. However, personally, I would advise to start with these ones. Of course, feel free to cross the ones you feel unnecessary off your list—these are just items I feel are essential in my daily life. Now, when it comes to buying these items, I personally would advice non-plastic products—glass and stainless steel are the most recommended—but if you already own them, it is best to just use the ones at your disposal. There is basically no point in starting a low-impact/minimalist lifestyle by purchasing more stuff, in my opinion.


photo via Dimanja Bumi

There is practically no point in knowing the items you need to start this whole new lifestyle, if you don't know where to get them, right? Well, have I got good news for you! There are actually a lot of places where you can buy the items you don't already have. Let's break them down by categories, shall we? First off, for the tools in general, there are a number of great options to choose from, such as and Cleanomic. You can also find stainless steel straws, chopsticks and mesh bags at No Space Canteen. For produce bags, Kaavya and Ssewn offer some really great selections. For reusable menstrual pads, I would recommend Efsae Daily Equipment—the cheapest store I've found so far. As for skincare products and makeup, I'd recommend YAGI, Dimanja Bumi, Econic and Wangsa Jelita. But, if you want a one-stop-shop you can try Green Mommy Shop or Warung 1000 Kebun. They have practically everything, from tools, self-care products, cleaning products to food and produce.

photo via LiveGreener ID

Aside from that, you can also buy these products on various events. I would suggest following a few communities to get updated when there's an event you can visit—it'll save up on shipping cost, of course—such as The Local Market, LiveGreener ID, Komunitas Organik Indonesia and Jakarta Greener Events. In fact, just last week a few of these communities held an event where I got most of my zero-waste tools. There were stands from various stores, selling different kinds of items, including tools, beauty and food products—some of which I haven't mentioned above. If you don't live in the Greater Jakarta Area, of course, you can try to find the communities in your own cities—and the communities or stores above might be able to help you. Usually, they also hold talkshows and/or seminars regarding conscious living, so you can also gain more information.

photo via The Brave Life

However, if you want to kick it up a notch and DIY the hell out of everything, well, be my guest. There are various ways you can do that, of course. If you want to know how to make household products yourself, I would suggest watching Lauren Singer's tutorials. There are also a number of tutorials from other Youtubers: for menstrual padproduce bags and face wipes if you want to make your own. Full disclosure: I haven't tried any of these tutorials yet, so I can't tell you how difficult, easy and/or efficient they may be—but feel free to try them out and let me know what you think.


photo via waste4change

Aside from thinking about the tools and things that we need to live a low-impact lifestyle, it is also important to think about the waste that we generate. At the moment, unfortunately, living a zero-waste lifestyle is still close to impossible in Indonesia—well, to be honest, in the modern community, it is not fully possible yet—so we will most likely still generate some amount of waste. However, the best way we can work with that is to learn how to manage our waste properly, so that recyclables will actually be able to get recycled and the organic ones can actually get composed. The first thing we can do is to separate our waste into, at least, three categories: compostable/organic, recyclables/unorganic and hazardous/toxic.

The first category includes food scraps (fruit, vegetables, meat), dried leaves, cardboards and sawdust/wood chips. I don't think it includes bones and nails, though. The best way to discard of this waste is to put them into a compost bin and let it rot into fertiliser. That way this waste will not be wasted at all, but will end up being returned to the earth and bring more food onto our plates. Composting can actually be easier than you think. You can buy a compost bin from Mata Cinta—they'll provide you with a bio-activator that works like worms in manual composting processes—and use it straight away. They're also very helpful in assisting you through the process.

The second category includes plastic, glass, metal, paper and carton (tetrapak). For this type, you should clean each of them up—make sure they're clean and dry, greasy and wet ones cannot be recycled—gather them in one waste bin and bring them to your local recycling centre. As you might be aware, unfortunately, our government doesn't really supply state-run recycling centres, so private-run ones are our only options. The one centre I've donated to once was waste4change—that has various drop-off locations throughout the Jakarta area. For more info on other recycling centre location and organisations, you can check out this story highlight by Astri Puji Lestari. Extra points if you separate them according to each type—including the plastic types.

The third category includes electronic waste (battery, cables, headset) and chemical waste (packaging for insecticide and cleaning products). You should carefully gather them in one container and bring them to your local hazardous waste centre—or have them picked up. They should never be mixed with the other two categories and, ideally, not be sent to landfill. If they are left in landfill for too long, the hazardous chemicals will leach into the land and water, creating a dangerous environment for plants, animals and people alike around them. For electronic waste in particular, you can drop it off at EwasteRJ or, again, waste4change for the greater Jakarta area.

Lastly, I'd like to leave you with a few notes. First of all, the easiest thing—and seriously easy—that you can do to start this transition is by switching your search engine from Google, Yahoo or Bing to Ecosia. Now, Ecosia is a search engine that plants a tree for every time you search something on it. It is almost exactly like Google, so you shouldn't be worried about missing out on your search. They also have a blog to check out various cool stories on environmental studies and changemakers. Secondly, I am obviously not an expert on this whole thing and I've only just begun my journey, so if you're interested to find out more about this lifestyle and get advice/tips/tutorials, you might want to check out Astri Puji Lestari's instagram or blog. Almost all my knowledge and information come from her. Also, of course, if you have more information or tips to share, leave them in the comments down below. I'd love to learn more!

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