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10 years on: Northeast Japan city inspires waste-sorting in Indonesia

  • March 3, 2021
  • , Jiji Press , 8:43 p.m.
  • English Press

Banda Aceh, Indonesia, March 3 (Jiji Press)–A Japanese-style garbage-sorting system is taking root in an Indonesian city thanks to its exchanges with the city of Higashimatsushima, Miyagi Prefecture, northeastern Japan.


The city of Banda Aceh on the northern tip of Indonesia’s Sumatra island began exchanges with Higashimatsushima after the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami struck the Japanese city. Banda Aceh, for its part, suffered over 78,000 casualties in the huge tsunami that hit Sumatra in 2004.


The adoption of the sorting scheme is seen as a progressive move in a country struggling with waste-related problems.


Every Monday, officials from the city department responsible for waste management check garbage collection points in the coastal village of Alue Deah Teungoh.


The garbage is sorted into seven categories such as plastic bottles, aluminum cans and glass, with newspapers and other paper waste tied with string.


City officials measure and read aloud the weights for each waste category. These are recorded by other officials and leaders of garbage collection points.


The garbage collection points, introduced in 2015, were proposed by a Banda Aceh official who stayed in Higashimatsushima for a year as part of the two cities’ CoMU Project exchange initiative, which began in 2013. The Japanese city had launched a project for sorting disaster waste by hand to boost recycling accuracy and create employment.


A Banda Aceh department official said that it took effort to convince citizens to follow garbage-sorting rules as littering is common in Indonesia.


Department officials visited homes and held meetings to explain the importance of the initiative.


The department also created a chart with images to show sorting rules. The chart was modeled after a similar one drawn up by Higashimatsushima for its household waste rules.


The city is setting up garbage collection points at a rate of one per 20 to 25 households so that everyone has quick access to one. In 2018, the city began sending out email reminders to residents on the day before garbage collection.


Azri Munaldi, chief of Alue Deah Teungoh, said that a waste-purchasing scheme was a major motivator for citizens.


Under the scheme, the city pays for six types of recyclable waste based on the amount, and the money is divided among residents. The scheme ensures that sorting waste leads to financial benefit.


Leaders of waste collection points also receive financial incentives.


The number of collection points in Banda Aceh increased from just two in 2015 to 31 by 2020. While the city has yet to reach its target of setting up 800 collection points, it has managed to curb the increase in waste that ends up in final disposal sites since 2018, despite the rising population.


According to estimates by Indonesia’s Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources, waste is increasing nationwide by 1 pct, or about 700,000 tons, every year.


The country has been urging citizens to reduce, reuse and recycle waste since 2005, but a local newspaper said that such calls have so far fallen short.


Hayatun Nufus, 43, a garbage collection point leader, gives lessons on waste sorting under a city educational program for schools, restaurants and companies. Nufus has lectured at over 80 schools since 2019.


On Feb. 23, Nufus visited MIN 1 elementary school and asked children if they had brought their water bottles and lunch boxes. They took out their bottles and lunches so Nufus can see them, as the school bans single-use containers and created a team of kids patrolling for waste.


Nufus, who visited Higashimatsushima in 2016, remembers being awed by how very little garbage ended up in final disposal sites thanks to waste-sorting.


After learning that it took several decades for Higashimatsushima to achieve that, Nufus expressed firm belief that Banda Aceh can also steadily reduce waste even if it may take time.

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