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BANKING ON GARBAGE AND WILL POWER

  • Aruna Harjani

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta | Tue, March 22, 2016 | 10:38 am
BANKING ON GARBAGE AND WILL POWER Trash bank: Febriarti Khairunnisa (right) looks on as garbage is weighed by school supervisors in Lombok, West Nusa Tenggara. (Courtesy of Febriarti Khairunnisa)" height="350" width="511" border="0">

Trash bank: Febriarti Khairunnisa (right) looks on as garbage is weighed by school supervisors in Lombok, West Nusa Tenggara. (Courtesy of Febriarti Khairunnisa)

“Like butterflies, they are small but big in their own way, enough to color people’s lives.”

Living away from the modernity of Jakarta, Febriarti Khairunnisa and Siti Nuraeni are on a “social footpath”, helping the needy out of their own goodwill.

The two ladies are part of the 6x6 Women in Action program, established by Yayasan Seni Kehidupan, more commonly known as the Art of Living Indonesia.

Febriarti, or Febri, was working in a government office in Lombok before getting into her current line of work.

“My husband use to tell me stories about how selling garbage paid for his living costs. His family was very poor and had to rely on collecting garbage because they didn’t own a field to plant rice,” she says.

Febri convinced her husband to tell his story to others to inspire them. “I told my husband, if you and your parents didn’t give up during that time, and just from waste, you were able to acquire a bachelor’s degree, then why not motivate the needy to do the same.”

Inspired by her husband’s past and also wanting to help the poor, she decided to get into the garbage business six years ago.

“It was difficult at the start, because people needed to be educated about the program. They couldn’t comprehend how it would benefit them,” Febri said.

It was long and winding road that led Febri to where she is at now.  

“Initially we would go door to door, explaining the project. People would label us a crazy couple because they said we spent a lot of money for our bachelor’s degree and now we are working with dirty things”.

Both husband and wife were underestimated by their community. Febri had to manage with her own resources. “I withdrew whatever savings I had and sold our wedding rings,” she says.

Febri points out that even if a man is uneducated, he can still earn money, and save some, through waste collection.

“Lombok, which is in West Nusantara, is one of the most underdeveloped provinces in the country where the poverty level is very high at 17.5 percent. Unemployment and dropouts are also high,” she said.

They have now created additional income for many local people and communities using waste savings, the incomes varying from Rp 250,000 (US$19) to Rp 3 million a month.

Payment, she said, can be done monthly or quarterly, depending on the agreement between individuals and Bintang Sejahtera trash bank that she set up in 2014.

They collect waste from communities every two weeks. A total of thirty communities with more than 1,500 active members store their “waste savings” at their houses for collection later.

 â€œWe collect 14 types of waste, all of them inorganic such as plastic, glass and bottles, or any kind of plastic packaging. We also collect boxes, aluminum cans, newspapers and anything that has value.”

The trash bank converts the garbage into money for participants, and registers their payments on their “tabungan sampah” (waste savings) account.  Prices vary on the quality of the waste, from Rp 3,500 to Rp 4,000 a kilogram.

Febri’s average turnover is Rp 150 million per month, with her gross earnings coming to around 24
percent of that.

All smiles: Students and their mothers pose at their school in Brebes. (Courtesy of Sri Nuraeni)

Trash bank: Febriarti Khairunnisa (right) looks on as garbage is weighed by school supervisors in Lombok, West Nusa Tenggara. (Courtesy of Febriarti Khairunnisa)

'€œLike butterflies, they are small but big in their own way, enough to color people'€™s lives.'€

Living away from the modernity of Jakarta, Febriarti Khairunnisa and Siti Nuraeni are on a '€œsocial footpath'€, helping the needy out of their own goodwill.

The two ladies are part of the 6x6 Women in Action program, established by Yayasan Seni Kehidupan, more commonly known as the Art of Living Indonesia.

Febriarti, or Febri, was working in a government office in Lombok before getting into her current line of work.

'€œMy husband use to tell me stories about how selling garbage paid for his living costs. His family was very poor and had to rely on collecting garbage because they didn'€™t own a field to plant rice,'€ she says.

Febri convinced her husband to tell his story to others to inspire them. '€œI told my husband, if you and your parents didn'€™t give up during that time, and just from waste, you were able to acquire a bachelor'€™s degree, then why not motivate the needy to do the same.'€

Inspired by her husband'€™s past and also wanting to help the poor, she decided to get into the garbage business six years ago.

'€œIt was difficult at the start, because people needed to be educated about the program. They couldn'€™t comprehend how it would benefit them,'€ Febri said.

It was long and winding road that led Febri to where she is at now.  

'€œInitially we would go door to door, explaining the project. People would label us a crazy couple because they said we spent a lot of money for our bachelor'€™s degree and now we are working with dirty things'€.

Both husband and wife were underestimated by their community. Febri had to manage with her own resources. '€œI withdrew whatever savings I had and sold our wedding rings,'€ she says.

Febri points out that even if a man is uneducated, he can still earn money, and save some, through waste collection.

'€œLombok, which is in West Nusantara, is one of the most underdeveloped provinces in the country where the poverty level is very high at 17.5 percent. Unemployment and dropouts are also high,'€ she said.

They have now created additional income for many local people and communities using waste savings, the incomes varying from Rp 250,000 (US$19) to Rp 3 million a month.

Payment, she said, can be done monthly or quarterly, depending on the agreement between individuals and Bintang Sejahtera trash bank that she set up in 2014.

They collect waste from communities every two weeks. A total of thirty communities with more than 1,500 active members store their '€œwaste savings'€ at their houses for collection later.

 '€œWe collect 14 types of waste, all of them inorganic such as plastic, glass and bottles, or any kind of plastic packaging. We also collect boxes, aluminum cans, newspapers and anything that has value.'€

The trash bank converts the garbage into money for participants, and registers their payments on their '€œtabungan sampah'€ (waste savings) account.  Prices vary on the quality of the waste, from Rp 3,500 to Rp 4,000 a kilogram.

Febri'€™s average turnover is Rp 150 million per month, with her gross earnings coming to around 24
percent of that.

All smiles: Students and their mothers pose at their school in Brebes. (Courtesy of Sri Nuraeni)

All smiles: Students and their mothers pose at their school in Brebes. (Courtesy of Sri Nuraeni)ls mainly, have benefitted from the program. One school has easily brought in around Rp 3 million-5 million a month with three hundred students '€œdonating'€ their inorganic garbage.

'€œNot all schools in Lombok are supported by the government, so the garbage funds are used to improve their learning programs.'€

Febri said one private school, which had a huge debt to pay for the construction of its buildings, joined the program and managed to collect Rp 9 million in three months of collecting waste.

She also introduced her program to women'€™s communities.

'€œThe women own a waste unit and also profit by running it; they organize the waste collection in their community, where they are allowed to take 20 percent extra from everything they collect.'€  

Different prices are applied by them and the actual garbage depositors. '€œI give them a list of prices, for them to mark up, so they can profit from the operation.'€

After collection, the waste is then transported it to the workshop in Lombok. There, female employees separate it. After being sorted, it is crushed inside a machine, then cleaned and dried. Once 8 tons of waste is accumulated it is shipped to Surabaya.

Febri manages 28 tons of organic waste and 25 tons of inorganic waste per month '€” reducing garbage in the local environment by up to 53 tons monthly.

She is then paid by plastic and paper recycling companies. From the payments she receives, 50 percent is donated to an awareness program for women, where they are given business coaching related to waste management.

'€œWe want women to be more aware and knowledgeable and skilled so they can manage their own waste [businesses],'€ she said.

Last year Bintang Sampah Sejahtera won first prize for its garbage bank project, and was recently invited to Jakarta by the Art Of Living. Febri was given free enrolment in a workshop on social enterprise training.

'€œI realized that this was what I was actually doing all along: social enterprising,'€ she said.

For 24-year-old Siti '€œEny'€™ Nuraeni, education is her mode for helping society. She wants to help promote literacy in her city.

On willpower alone, she drove two hours from her home in Brebes, Central Java, and opened a school for 38 children aged 2 to 6.

'€œThe school is free, thanks to the 6x6 program. The books have been provided by concerned women,'€ said Eny, who trains volunteers who live near the school to help her with teaching.

Eny is only in her sixth month on the project and has already received an award from Unicef for the school. Unicef also donated funds for a school building and provided a free teacher training workshop in Bandung for the school'€™s four teachers.

Although the school is in a remote area, reachable only by boat, their books and curriculum are up to date.

'€œVolunteers have been supporting us, keeping our school on par with those in the main cities. Our students still compete with their peers even though they are in a remote area.'€

Eny also keeps mothers of her students occupied while their kids are in class. While the children are being taught, the mothers are trained to make handicrafts out of recycled inorganic items.

Meeting Febri has opened Eny'€™s eyes to the advantages of waste management.

Eny focused on the creative side of recycled waste. Newspapers are turned into handicrafts the mothers can sell to make money.

'€œThe point here is to help the children, then their mothers and then their fathers who are farmers,'€ Eny says.

She is still on the lookout for a project to improve the lives of the fathers of her students. '€œI am still looking for ideas to support our farmers because they still have problems related to their farming culture.'€

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