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These 3 Countries May Inspire Indonesia’s Waste Management

Plastic, plastic, plastic, the not-so-fantastic problem that just keeps recurring.

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heaps of plastic garbage from fast food restaurants
What the world really need is a well-planned waste management.

Jasmin Sessler [8]

From Indonesia to the United States, the average number of waste just keeps increasing throughout the years. In 2018 alone, 359 tonnes of plastic were produced, this number was recorded as a 3.2% increase from 2017, with 50% of the data taken from Asia [1].

The plastic industry can never be erased completely, however with proper waste management, recycling, and limitations on harmful non-recyclable plastics, us humans can limit its extreme environmental consequences that harms all the living things on the planet!

The good news is, several countries have developed national systems that could be a benchmark in tackling the global plastic waste issue. Let’s take a trip to the 3 countries that have effective solutions and experiences in handling waste, both plastic and non-plastic!


Disclaimer: the numbers on this list are not based on any specific order.


1. Sweden’s Waste-to-Energy

Stockholm from bird view
In Sweden, waste is not wasteful, but useful materials to fuel power plant.

Raphael Andres [9]

We’re starting off our journey with Sweden where instead of refilling on coals, gases, or fossil fuels, they use waste to keep their power plants running. The system has been progressively running ever since 2002 and was deemed as a revolutionary waste management system [2].

To make it happen, household and industrial wastes are gathered and then sorted to be put into an incinerator. The waste needs to be previously sorted because not every type of waste is safe and adequate enough to be turned into fuel. Only combustible household wastes are accepted, but with the note that it doesn’t contain too much liquid or any hazardous chemicals.

Any other materials were sent to a recycling program, which then produces non-combustible waste residues, or slag, that could be used as hard materials to build roads and parking lots.

What’s more amazing is that it didn’t stop there! Every 4 tons of waste is as valuable as 1 ton of oil, 1.6 ton of coal, or 5 tons of wood [3]. The power then went straight to provide heat for 810.000 homes to cope with the harsh and cold seasons which envelop the whole country. Talk about feeding two birds with one scone!

Some say this is just trash-burning on a bigger scale, but Sweden made sure that the residues and after-waste were stored or managed accordingly through different layers of filters and purification processes.


2. Germany’s Green Dot

Berlin from aerial view
The Green Dot system asked the packaging industry to take back and recycle everything that they sold.

Claudio Schwarz [10]

After a 2-hours flight from Stockholm, we’re now in Berlin to see how they managed to have the highest recycling rate in the world! 56.1% of the entire waste produced in the country was recycled in 2017 [4]. This is possible thanks to a system they call The Green Dot.

Of course, it took time to accomplish such high numbers, even dating back to 1991 when the idea was firstly implemented [5]. The idea was simple, all packaging manufacturers are obliged to take back their used products to be recycled at the end of the day. A simple idea that took the phrase “finish what you started” to a whole literal meaning.

Up until 2009, it was mandatory for packaging distributors to have The Green Dot symbol printed on their products. It allowed people to know that the company had contributed to the country’s waste management. It also served as a sign that the distributors have cooperated with recycling companies. However, the system is not mandatory anymore, but rather voluntary [6].

This is also applicable to general citizens who took a very important role as consumers. All they need to do is either place a trash bag outside to be picked up or hand them over to the nearest collection point.

So far, 20 countries in Europe have joined in on the action by adopting similar systems. About 95.000 licenses of The Green Dot have been acquired all around Europe. Definite proof that positive changes does spread!

3. Singapore’s Semakau

Singapore from above
Singapore's wasteland is unlike any others', it is also a healthy and thriving marine ecosystem.

Swapnil Bapat [11]

Traveling from Europe to Asia, we now visit Indonesia’s dearest neighbor, Singapore. If you haven’t heard, Semakau is an integrated landfill island turned ecosystem.

Singapore is a small island and all of its citizens are living in the very heart of the country. Though it is an effective and accessible way of living, it also means there is less land area that can be used to manage daily waste produced by every household. Humans can’t live next to heaps of garbage!

Most countries dedicate a small portion of their land for landfills and leave it as it is, but that is not what happens with Semakau. The 7 km perimeter rock is also home to the thriving marine life and mangroves around the island. Some people even say the island looks just like any other beautiful tropical island!

The secret lies behind the fact that all of the waste was previously sent to an waste-to-energy incinerator, just like the one Sweden has. The residues and any other recycled non-combustible wastes are further collected and managed in Semakau, making it look unlike any other dirty and stenchful wasteland [7]. The island is even open for visitors to learn about solid waste management.

Sweden, Germany, and Singapore taught us that waste is an important aspect of humans’ lives. We continue to produce waste, yet we often fail to see its value and leave the consequences of waste to the environment. These countries showed a model example of how turning waste to treasure can prevent plastics from becoming ocean polluters.

Now, let’s reflect on our own country where Indonesia’s mass population means tonnes of trash produced per person. Imagine turning those waste into resources for the benefit of the people and the planet. Here’s an idea, why not use our current non-recyclable, contaminated plastic wastes as slags to build roads?


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