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WB eyes expansion of 'waste banks'

The World Bank in Indonesia is currently exploring how to improve solid-waste management, and scaling up "waste banks" is one option.

Called bank sampah in bahasa Indonesia, the waste banks can be found in neighbourhoods across the country - on Sulawesi, Kalimantan and Java.

At these banks, the waste created by the household is divided into two categories - organic and non-organic. Organic waste gets turned into compost, while non-organic waste is divided further into three categories: plastic, paper, plus bottles and metal. The vast majority of eco-friendly households in Indonesia keep three bins or three large garbage bags in their homes; over time, they began separating their waste into three different sections. Once their three bins and garbage bags are full, they bring their haul to a neighbourhood waste bank to "make a deposit".

Like a regular commercial bank, you open up an account with your local waste bank. Periodically, you make deposits with your non-organic solid waste, which is weighed and given a monetary value, based on rates set by waste collectors. This value is saved in your account from which, like a regular bank, you can withdraw.

The basic principles of waste banks remain the same across provinces: collect, save, earn, change behaviour, and enjoy a clean neighbourhood.

In Manado, in North Sulawesi, a local high school adopted the lessons of cleanliness and prudent waste management early on. Students of senior secondary high school SMA 7 began going green in 2007, by composting with organic waste from their cafeteria.

Over time, a waste bank system was introduced, and students felt encouraged to "save" their plastic water bottles and plastic snack wrappers, knowing that after a certain length of time they'll have enough money to help supplement their school fees or other needs.

Indonesia's Environmental Affairs Ministry has since awarded them for their "green" entrepreneurial spirit.

Meanwhile, East Kalimantan's capital Balikpapan runs a more conventional waste bank.

"'Garbage is our friend. Garbage equals money.' That's what I keep telling local residents," says Sobirin, a former local legislator. After opening in 2012, Sobirin's waste bank in Gunung Samarinda collects up to 3 tonnes of non-organic solid waste each month. "Each household manages to save about 50,000 rupiah [about Bt165] a month through this waste bank. Over time, this is quite helpful for helping pay for household and education needs," he said.


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