August 19, 2009 | General

Composting And Recycling In Bali (Indonesia)

BioCycle August 2009, Vol. 50, No. 8, p. 41
While scavengers divert a significant amount of recyclables and organics through an informal network, a hotel initiative provides a model for sustainable waste management.
Martin Medina

BALI is a tropical island in Indonesia with a population of approximately three million. It extends nearly 100 miles from east to west, and 55 miles north to south. Its interesting culture, natural beauty and beaches attract over two million foreign tourists a year in more than 1,000 hotels. Tourism provides income opportunities for the Balinese, and also attracts migrants from neighboring Java and other Indonesian islands seeking employment.
This growing local and tourist population has a deleterious impact on the island’s environment. Due to the extraction of groundwater at a higher rate than the natural recharge capacity, saltwater intrusion is becoming a serious problem. Solid waste management also has a significant environmental impact.
Bali generates more than 5,000 tons/day of wastes; about 70 percent is organics. This poses problems, but also presents opportunities for productive use of organic matter. Economic development on the island is changing waste composition towards less organics. In the coming years, the percentage of plastics and other inorganics is likely to keep rising.
Open dumping constitutes the most common waste disposal method. The largest dump is the Denpasar, a municipal facility that receives waste from the largest city on the island. There are also many smaller dumping grounds. Waste is also scattered along roads and in canals. It has been estimated that nearly 60 percent of all wastes generated on Bali are dumped on vacant land, open ditches, mangroves and rivers. Residents of Kuta Beach often dump their wastes into the Kuta River, which is then carried into the Indian Ocean. The surf brings the garbage back to Kuta Beach, one of the most developed beaches on the island. Open burning of wastes is also common throughout the island.
Despite the traditional Balinese Trihita Karana concept of protecting the environment while pursuing economic development, the volume of wastes keeps increasing and its negative environmental impact tends to worsen. Existing recycling activities in Bali include informal (carried out by scavengers) as well as formal programs.

Informal Recycling Activities
As in many developing countries, scavenging is common in Bali (see “Zero Waste In Buenos Aires,” BioCycle June 2008). During my visit to Bali, I observed scavenging activities on the streets and at the Denpasar garbage dump. Scavengers are locally known as pemulung in Bahasa, the Indonesian national language. They salvage aluminum cans, PET bottles, paper and other reusable and recyclable materials from waste bins, as well as the streets and vacant land. The pemulung are not organized into associations or cooperatives, which are becoming common in many developing countries.
Most recovered inorganic materials are sent to Java, the country’s most populous island and main economic center, where they are recycled by industry. In this way, a materials loop has developed between Java and Bali, in which the former manufactures various products that are shipped and consumed in the latter. Middlemen usually buy the materials from scavengers and perform the sorting, cleaning and baling of recyclables prior to shipping.
Scavengers also recover organics to sell to pig farms. Some pemulung specialize in the recovery of food leftovers and kitchen waste, mostly from restaurants and hotels. Since the food scraps tend to be of high quality, pig farms show a strong demand for them. Farmers boil the recovered organics before feeding them to the pigs, to protect the animals’ health. Some farms have anaerobic digesters that processes pig urine and manure. Methane generated can be burned for boiling the recovered organics, as well as cooking farmers’ meals.
There are about 50 pig farms of various sizes in Bali, located mostly on the southern part of the island. Indonesia is a predominantly Muslim country, and devout Muslims do not eat pork. However, most Balinese are Hindu, and are not faced with the same restriction. Pork is also served to foreign tourists at hotels and restaurants. While this practice recycles nutrients and diverts organic matter from the waste stream, its impact on consumers’ health is not clear.
A study conducted in Jakarta, Indonesia’s capital, estimates that pemulung working there recycled about 30 percent of the total waste generation. There isn’t a reliable estimate of a recycling rate for Bali, but it is likely to be significant – the economic impact of scavenging activities in Bali has been estimated at about US $9 million/year. This estimate includes income received by scavengers, middlemen and their employees, as well as related services, such as transportation and necessary inputs.

Formal Recycling and Composting

Although no municipal recycling programs existed in Bali (as of early 2008), Denpasar municipality formed three public/private partnerships with local nongovernmental organizations (NGO) for implementing composting projects. The main problem faced by these projects was low demand for the compost produced. Rice cultivation and other agricultural activities are common throughout Bali, which could potentially use large amounts of compost. Denpasar municipal waste management officials, however, assert that Balinese farmers show a cultural reluctance to fertilizing their fields with “waste” materials, despite the fact that pig farmers do not mind feeding waste materials to their animals.
In order to overcome farmers’ reluctance to use compost, Denpasar municipality conducted a demonstration project growing rice and other crops in 100 percent compost. There were two main problems with this approach. First, they did not use source separated organic materials, so the resulting compost was not high quality. Second, research and experience have demonstrated that adding compost to the soil, rather than growing crops in straight compost, can obtain the best results. After these problems are corrected, demonstration projects will be better able to convince visiting farmers of the benefits of composting.

Hotel Waste Management
Over 2 million visitors stay in Bali’s 1,000 hotels every year. Total waste generation per hotel room averages 9 Kg (20 lbs)/day, nearly 10 times the MSW generation rate for local residents. Hotel waste accounts for nearly 20 percent of total waste generated in southern Bali, the main tourist area.
The Wisnu Foundation, a local NGO, created the Hotel Waste Management Program (HWMP) in 1995 to reduce environmental impact of hotel wastes on the island. The HWMP intended to demonstrate that a combined recycling/composting program could create jobs, reduce pollution and supply inexpensive materials to industry.
In partnership with waste haulers, Wisnu convinced several hotels to participate in the program to contribute to more sustainable tourism development. Wisnu functioned as a communication link between the hotels and the haulers, helping to develop cost-effective solutions for waste management, also raising awareness of the environmental and social issues. Strategies included new purchasing and consumption practices that reduce the amount of waste produced; reusing materials in hotels as much as possible; recovering food scraps for pigs and cows; using nonedible organics for composting or firewood; recycling plastic, glass, metal, paper and cardboard; disposing of residual waste at the final dumpsite; and treating wastewater on-site or paying for treatment at the municipal sewage treatment plant.
Ten of Bali’s largest hotels signed contracts with Wisnu; a local company called Jimbaran Lestari agreed to collect the waste from participants. The contracts are valid for a year and can be extended annually if hotels are satisfied with the service. Participating hotels pay a monthly fee based on the volume of wastes generated.
The foundation was able to mobilize hotels by selling the benefits of these strategies to hotel managers. One way of doing this was through including solid waste management in the hotel’s existing environmental programs, and recognition through an Eco Hotel Rating Program, which promotes the green image of the hotels involved, thereby attracting the attention of environmentally concerned travel agencies and consumers.
Even though Wisnu played a significant role in the development of HWMP, the program is now a for-profit, privately run company that is part of Jimbaran Lestari. Hotels are required to institute source separation of materials into organic and inorganic. Jimbaran Lestari collects the waste and takes it to a materials recovery facility built specifically for this program. Materials are sorted into several categories, with food scraps and kitchen waste cut up and sold to pig farmers for feed. Inedible organics, such as branches and leaves, are either composted or sold as firewood. Reusable items that end up in the waste, such as silverware, binders or folders, are either returned to the hotels or sold to other businesses. Recyclable materials, such as metals, plastics, glass, etc., are sorted and sold to industry for recycling.
Hotels receive a monthly statement about their waste – how much garbage was generated, what portion was used as pig feed, how much was composted, and how much was recycled. On average, Jimbaran Lestari reuses, recycles and composts about 80 percent of the waste that it collects from hotels. Closing the loop, hotels take back compost that Jimbaran Lestari produces, and use it on gardens and landscaping. All recovery and sorting activities at the MRF use inexpensive, simple technologies that require labor. Jobs have been created for unskilled labor, having a positive social impact and reducing poverty.
The current international economic crisis reduced demand and depressed prices for recyclables, but prices have started to rebound due to the economic recovery in several Asian countries.
This program has been replicated in Hua Hin, Thailand and is being planned in Siem Reap, Cambodia. It received a Best Practice Award from the United Nations Habitat Program for its innovative character and success.
As a result of Bali’s population growth and greater prosperity from tourism and other economic activities, more wastes are likely to be generated in the near future. Nevertheless, current composting and recycling activities in Bali demonstrate that it is possible to greatly reduce the amount of wastes that need to be collected, transported and disposed, all while producing economic benefits.

Martin Medina received a PhD in Environmental Studies from Yale University and has been a waste management consultant for the World Bank, the InterAmerican Development Bank, the United Nations, and others for projects in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East. The research for this project was funded by a grant from the City of Kitakyushu and by the Institute for Global Environmental Strategies (IGES) in Japan. He also gratefully acknowledges assistance from Denpasar Municipality, the Jimbaran Lestari company, the Wisnu Foundation, and Balifokus, a local NGO.

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