Surabaya Mayor Tri Rismaharini is boasting about the community-based waste management in the capital of the East Java province to a panel of judges of the Guangzhou International Award for Urban Innovation 2018 in Guangzhou, China, on Monday, in hopes of winning this year.
Surabaya was shortlisted after three failed attempts.
“The waste management system has been the pride of Surabaya and it has been successful in reducing the volume of waste in the city. Our programs will compete with other outstanding programs from other well-known cities,” Surabaya administration spokesman Muhammad Fikser said recently.
According to Fikser, the judges of the award had visited Surabaya unannounced to assess the project’s implementation in the field in August without being accompanied by representatives of the Surabaya administration.
Previously, Nicholas You, the director of Guangzhou Institute for Urban Innovation, said that the involvement of locals in various city projects, such as the bus services that allow passengers to pay for tickets with used plastic bottles, had been a major reason for nominating Surabaya for the award.
He was referring to the Suroboyo bus, which offers free bus trips in exchange for used plastic bottles. It was launched by the administration in April.
Risma, as the mayor is widely known by residents, claimed that the community-based approach the administration employed not only reduced waste but also inspired sustainable business ideas. Power generating plants in the city that use waste as fuel can produce 2 megawatts of electricity, which is sold to the state-owned electricity company PLN. She had also previously emphasized how the city had managed to reduce waste despite its growing population, thanks to such policies.
According to the Surabaya Green Spaces Sanitation Agency, Surabaya produces an average of 9,800 cubic meters of waste daily.
Surabaya households produce an average of 1,500 cubic meters of organic waste every day, most of which have been independently managed at waste banks and compost houses. Surabaya currently has 371 waste banks managed by locals and 26 compost houses in almost all districts of the municipality.
The agency also claimed that 70 percent of waste produced in Surabaya was managed. The participatory waste management system in Surabaya, according to the mayor, has reduced the volume of waste by an average of 10 percent compared to the business-as-usual approach.
You also said that Surabaya deserved to be called a sustainable city thanks to its participatory waste management system. He also said the involvement of the community could inspire changes in other sectors such as transportation, energy, safety and public health.
The United Nations Environment Program previously praised waste-management efforts in Surabaya, as it promotes the recycling of daily waste in waste banks and compost houses.
As of Thursday, a week prior to the announcement of the winner of the Guangzhou award, Surabaya was the frontrunner, having collected the most votes from its residents.
Surabaya is among 15 shortlisted candidates, including Yiwu (China), Wuhan (China), Sydney (Australia), Salvador (Brazil), Santa Fe (Argentina), eThekwini (South Africa), Repentigny (Canada), Utrecht (the Netherlands), Milan (Italy), Guadalajara (Mexico), New York City (the United States), Santa Ana (Costa Rica), Kazan (Russia) and Mezitli (Turkey). At least 900 cities from 66 countries competed in the early selection stage.
The contest aims to award the innovative cities or local administration that “implement ongoing or recently completed initiatives, furthering city-to-city learning and exchange in support of the implementation of global agendas”, the official website reads.
“I am optimistic that Surabaya will win the prestigious award this time around. Please support us!” Risma said in her vlog.
This article was originally published in The Jakarta Post's print edition on Dec. 3, 2018, with the title "Surabaya touts programs to win 2018 Guangzhou Award".