Trash problems conquered
from home

Prodita Sabarini, The Jakarta Post, Denpasar

Most people feel repulsed by the foul smell of dirty, rotting garbage and try as hard as they can to have it removed from their homes to maintain a clean and healthy living space.

However, to residents who live at the Monang Maning housing complex in Tegal Kerta village, in downtown Denpasar, garbage has become a lucrative commodity.

""When people hear the word garbage they usually think negatively. Garbage disgusts them. But here in our village we've found a way to manage our waste and benefit from it,"" Tegal Kerta village official Ariyo Kusuma Wardhana told The Jakarta Post over the weekend.

Like other big cities in Indonesia, Denpasar mayoralty and surrounding regencies, including Tabanan, are currently facing serious waste disposal issues.

Denpasar is home to around 1 million of the island's 3.3 million inhabitants.

If you stroll along the streets of Denpasar you are likely to find piles of garbage around every corner. The city's rivers are clogged with household and industrial waste, creating a dirty and dangerous environment.

The Suwung Dam near Sanur resort -- on the border of Denpasar mayoralty and Badung regency -- is strewn with garbage. The city landfill nearby is overflowing with garbage transported from Denpasar and Badung.

""The city landfill is over capacity,"" explained Prapti Wahyuningsih, a program officer of the Bali Fokus waste disposal program.

Bali Fokus is a non-profit organization that runs waste management and sanitation programs in Denpasar and other cities in Bali. The organization has launched a number of community-based projects that teach people to manage and process their own garbage.

Until 2005, Tegal Kerta residents had no solution for their waste management problems.

With more than 3,000 families living in the densely populated village, Tegal Kerta used to produce around five tons of garbage every day.

The mismanagement of waste created sanitation and health issues in the community.

""Our village was one of the biggest producers of garbage in the city,"" Ariyo said.

""Our people were careless with garbage and dumped waste in the river, which caused flooding during the wet season. Some families burned their garbage; emitting hazardous chemicals into the air. Others buried waste on unused plots of land.

""Many people paid a Rp 5,000 fee to a garbage collector to remove rubbish from the area. Once the garbage was out of sight, they thought their problems were over.""

But problems ensued. Tegal Kerta shared a dumpster with two neighboring villages -- Tegal Harum and Pemecutan. During the wet season heavy rains drenched the garbage, which produced a foul-smelling water that seeped out into the streets.

Things have since changed for the better, however, for Tegal Kerta residents.

In 2005, BaliFokus began to teach residents how to make compost using their organic waste. Families learned to separate organic waste from inorganic waste. Residents used bamboo baskets filled with soil inoculants made from rice husks, tempeh (soybean paste) yeast and sugar to combat odor and the infestation of maggots.

As many as 100 groups in the village took part in the program.

Ariyo says he has seen a change in people's attitudes toward waste management.

""They don't throw garbage in water channels anymore and they don't burn it either. People are now interested in growing decorative plants, which thrive in the compost they make,"" he said.

""People are now turning their organic waste into compost in their own homes. We also have an Eco-Center; a place where organic and inorganic waste is separated.""

With help from Bali Fokus and funding from the Japanese government, the village established the Rp 60 million Eco-Center.

Residents Beidowi, 57, and his wife, 42-year-old Suniah, operate the center.

A grinding machine is used to break down organic waste to make the compost. The center, which has been operational for 2 years, produces some 500 kilograms of compost per month.

""The village has since earned more money from selling compost than the total amount of money it took to build the center,"" Ariyo said.

The center also sells usable inorganic items, such as plastic and glass bottles.

Ariyo said he himself makes compost from his organic household waste and sells it. He was even able to purchase a laptop from the extra income.

Prapti said Tegal Kerta has set a good example of how waste can be managed effectively at the village level. She said BaliFokus' latest program is currently being run in Banjar Sari village, in Ubung area, West Denpasar.

""We are building a waste separation facility there and also introducing compost-making techniques,"" she said.

""Hopefully this program will be implemented in other areas, so we can reduce the amount of solid waste begin dumped at landfills.

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