Foreign trash 'like treasure' in Indonesia's plastics village

phys.org | 8/13/2019 | Staff
xxlauzyxx (Posted by) Level 3
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His weathered face breaks out in a big grin as Keman explains how sifting through rubbish paid for his children's education, one of many in his Indonesian hometown basking in a waste-picking boom.

Governments around the world are grappling with how to tackle the scourge of single-use plastic, but for the people of Bangun trash equals cash.

Two-thirds - Town - Residents - Living - Plastic

Around two-thirds of the town's residents eke out a living sorting and selling discarded plastic bottles, wrappers and cups back to local companies, and after China blocked imports of foreign garbage early this year—the pile is growing.

"I have three kids—all of them go to university," Keman, who goes by one name, proudly tells AFP as he stands in a field of ankle-deep trash.

Thanks - Work - Explains

"And all that was possible thanks to my hard work scavenging rubbish," the 52-year-old explains.

Bangun is among several poor communities in Java, Indonesia's most populous island, that have carved a living from mining waste, much of it from Western nations including the United States, England, and Belgium, as well as the Middle East.

Giant - Recycling - China - Decision - Waste

Once a giant in global recycling, China's decision to block international waste through the industry into chaos.

Huge quantities of rubbish were instead redirected to Southeast Asia.

Indonesia - Waste - Imports - Years - Tons

Indonesia's plastic waste imports have soared in the past few years, jumping from 10,000 tons per month in late 2017 to 35,000 tons per month by late last year, according to Greenpeace, which warns that plastics prosperity comes at a huge environmental and public health cost.

Muharram Atha Rasyadi, a plastics campaigner with Greenpeace Indonesia says the situation has "become worse" since China's ban.

'Extremely profitable'

Up to 40 dump trucks a day rumble into Bangun to unload garbage outside people's homes or in vast fields where it forms mountains of waste sometimes as high as rooftops.

Years - Handful - Paper - Mills - Village

For years, a handful of local paper mills have been supplying the village...
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