The Jakarta Post, Jakarta
One person's trash can be another's treasure. That's one way of describing the principles behind the Ciliwung riverbank plastic recycling program.
The program was started almost a year ago by Jakarta Development Watch (Jadewa), a non-governmental organization (NGO).
"We are tired of criticizing government policy without any results. So we started to think about a program that could really get down to the grassroots," executive director of Jadewa, Santoso, told The Jakarta Post in his East Jakarta office on the banks of the Ciliwung river Tuesday.
He said he started thinking of the idea by observing the people who made a living by scavenging from the large amounts of plastic garbage that floated down the Ciliwung river.
"I proposed a capacity building program to the Education Ministry and they agreed to the proposal," he said.
The Education Ministry gave the organization Rp 100 million (US$10,989) to run the program.
He said he recruited 40 local unemployed and underemployed people and provided them with management training and training on how to identify and recycle different kinds of plastic.
"We divided those people into seven groups which were assigned to mapping out the spots where they could recover as much plastic garbage as possible," Santoso explained.
He added that the organization then bought a plastic processing machine from Surabaya to process the garbage into plastic scrap.
"We can then sell the scrap to a plastic manufacturer in Kapuk, North Jakarta, which will process it into new plastic products," Santoso said.
He said that before, people scavenging in the river would sell plastic to a broker for around Rp 3,500 (US38.5 cents) per kilogram. Now that the plastic was being processed, he said, it could be sold for up to Rp 10,000 per kilogram.
The program has given regular employment to many people living along the riverbank.
"I used to do odd jobs before I joined the program," said, Ino, a 32-year-old program participant.
He said he used to do anything from construction work to scavenging to earn money.
He added that he did not expect much when he first joined the program and only did it during his spare time.
"But this program has given me new knowledge about what I can do with the plastic garbage," he said.
City assistant for the people's welfare Rohana Manggala said the administration had several community empowerment programs.
"Through the subdistrict community empowerment program we provide loans for small enterprises to improve their businesses," she said.
However, she acknowledged there had been improper uses of the money.
From 2002 to 2006, the majority of the Rp 435 billion disbursed by the administration for the subdistrict community empowerment program went unreturned.
But Rohana was keen to emphasize the good news..
"We also have a training center in Pulo Gadung, East Jakarta, where people can have informal training to improve their skills," she said.
She said the city's programs should be given more time to prove they're achieving results.
"The most important thing is people's awareness that they can improve themselves," she said.