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Simple ways to slow down your consumption of waste

Georgia Parsons
Georgia Parsons

Student journalist with a love for food, travel and nice things

Jakarta  /  Thu, February 14, 2019  /  04:25 pm
Simple ways to slow down your consumption of waste

Reusable bag and water bottle can help cut down plastic waste. (Shutterstock/File)

The capital city produces in excess of 8,000 metric tons of waste every day. The main dump site for the city, Bantar Gebang, is expected to reach its maximum capacity in less than just two years.

Water bottles, food waste, plastic bags and household junk pile up around 40 meters high across an area of 110 hectares at the landfill, which is located just outside of Jakarta. There are trash pickers scattered across the uncovered mountains, scavenging through the tons of waste produced every day

If the waste problem continues, the mountains of trash will continue to grow – outwards, covering more and more of Jakarta. If waste management education is not implemented, future generations will not know the negative effects of overconsumption.

It’s hard to imagine how the waste crisis could ever be completely solved in Indonesia, but it’s approaching crisis point. We should also remember the problem of waste is not confined to Indonesia – it’s a global epidemic that needs action before it becomes too late.

Here are some simple changes that you can make to slow down your consumption of waste, and how you can educate your friends, family and colleagues to do the same.

1. Ditch the single use plastic bag

While we’ve all heard this one before, it’s still somehow so easy to forget.

Bringing along reusable shopping bags for your grocery shop, or just saying no to a plastic bag for small items can significantly reduce your personal consumption of waste. The easiest way to do this is to carry an everyday tote bag or backpack that’s large enough for a few items so you can say no to plastic if you spontaneously hit the shops. Roll up a few canvas bags and leave them in a few locations – your handbag, car and office - so you’re always prepared.

A single-use plastic bag can last in landfill for 450 years. Keep that in mind when you make your next purchase.

2. Buy a reusable water flask and boycott plastic bottles

One of Jakarta’s biggest contributors to waste at Bantar Gebang is single-use plastic bottles. Millions of drink bottles are still thrown away every day, despite the effortlessness of refilling a glass or metal drink bottle in lieu of a single-use plastic one.

Richard Gertman, a California-based sustainable materials management consultant, says that, “When there are storms, plastic becomes the ocean. Single-use plastics are so light, they’re wind-borne and virtually impossible to control.”

And that’s where the problem lies. When a gust of wind hits an uncovered landfill, like Bantar Gebang, the plastics set off first. It will travel with the wind for kilometers until it reaches water, where it can slowly sink into the ocean, the habitat of beautiful marine life.

Read also: Organic foods perhaps good for you, but bad for environment

Before you reach for a single-use plastic bottle, revaluate your decision and think about your contribution to the millions of bottles that are blown into the bottom of the ocean.

Finding it hard to remember to bring it home from work and back again? Keep one on your desk, one at home and in the car – just in case.

Reusable bag and water bottle can help cut down plastic waste.Reusable bag and water bottle can help cut down plastic waste. (Shutterstock/File)

3. Eat in, don’t take out

If you’ve got some time to spare for lunch, ditch the take-out option and opt to dine in.

Generally, take-out or to-go options from restaurants involve large amounts of plastic and unnecessary waste – a plastic or Styrofoam container, plastic cutlery and a plastic carry bag. If you’re just heading back to the office or home to eat, it’s an excessive amount of waste that could easily be avoided.

In fact, Styrofoam and plastic can each take over 500 years to biodegrade into landfill. By setting aside a few extra minutes to eat in when possible, you are saving masses of unnecessary waste from landfill.

Encourage your work mates to get involved and suggest heading over to a restaurant or food stall to dine at, rather than grabbing it to-go, to be eaten in the office.

If you do need your food to-go, bungkus options in Indonesia are generally quite environmentally friendly, as vendors wrap the meal in a banana leaf or some paper. Wooden chopsticks are a more environmentally friendly option over plastic cutlery, as they break down easily in landfill.

4. Tell your friends

Education is one of the biggest barriers to combating overuse of waste around the world.

Many people think that the difference they can make as an individual is irrelevant on a global scale of waste. Wrong. People must remember that even the smallest changes, like saying no to a plastic bag, is still a positive contribution, as one less is better than one more in landfill.

It’s useful to put things into perspective by adding up how much waste could be saved in mindless day-to-day activities, and help people understand how much humans are overusing single-use disposables. If a colleague enjoys a coffee to-go every morning from a shop close by, remind them that the simple gesture of taking along a reusable cup could save around 260 coffee cups from entering landfill every year.

If you can educate your friends, colleagues and family on the small steps they can take to reduce their waste consumption, you’re becoming a part of the change. Who knows, they might just pass on their knowledge or tips with another person!

5. Sort your waste

Sorting waste doesn’t have to be complicated, in fact, all you need is two separate bins in the home.

Sustainability expert Gertman says that simply sorting your wet waste (food scraps, organics) from your dry waste (plastic, paper, cardboard, metals) could reduce Indonesia’s waste by two-thirds with long-term implementation. Most of the current waste stream could be diverted to productive use, which can be beneficial to the economy.

“Dry materials could be more easily recycled, especially if they are not made unusable because of contamination from wet waste when they reach the garbage,” he said. “From the organics and food scraps, compost can be used to generate methane or a soil amendment.”

6. Don’t buy clothes (or items) you’re going to use once and throw away

Purchasing cheap clothing and other goods for one-time uses (dress-up parties, painting the house, unfamiliar holiday requirements) to later be thrown away is a massive contributor to landfill. Before you throw something away, think of how you could make better use of it, or if someone else could put it to good use. Before you purchase something at the shops, think about if you really need it, or if you could find a way out of buying it. A lot of the time, if you step back and think for a moment, you probably don’t need a lot of things you purchase.

Ripped a shirt? Fix it! Got a dress up party? Hire something! Need camping equipment for a one-off weekend away? Borrow it!

If you can refrain from one-off, impulse purchases, not only are you saving excess packaging and products from entering landfill, you’re saving money, too. (kes)

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The author is a student journalist with a love for food, travel and nice things.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the official stance of The Jakarta Post.