Waste piles into mountains as Jakarta struggles with trash

World Today

Waste piles into mountains as Jakarta struggles with trash

Single-use plastic is wreaking environmental havoc across parts of Asia. One area, just outside the Indonesian capital of Jakarta, is home to a mountain of trash.

CGTN’s Silkina Ahluwahlia reports, a lack of proper waste management only makes the problem worse.

An hour’s drive out of Indonesia’s sprawling metropolis Jakarta is one of the country’s largest landfills. When approaching the area, the first thing people notice is the stench followed by a towering 120 hectare hill of waste. 

Since the beginning from the 1980s, Jakarta has been dumping their trash in Bantar Gebang, located in the district of Bekasi. Poor waste management systems and lack of recycling facilities have forced the Jakarta administration to ignore the never-ending mountain of waste. 

The landfill is also home to more than 3,000 families, many of them with young children. Those families make a living by scavenging through the trash. 

Resa Boenard is one of those children who grew up in the landfill. She was brought to Bantar Gebang when she was eight years old from West Sumatra. Resa still remembers a time when her home was surrounded by rice fields and lush greenery. As a young child, she was able to enjoy the crisp and fresh morning air. Today, her home sits next to piles and piles of decomposing waste. 

Resa saw how demotivated the children around Bantar Gebang could get. Many of her friends abandoned their hopes and dreams just because they were brought up in the area. 

That prompted her to start BGBJ, a non-profit organization aimed to nurture and support the children living near the landfill,12 years ago.

“I hope the children at BGBJ can see that there is a hope for the future and they’re not being lazy. I want them to say I have to achieve this and I want to do this. Use BGBJ as a place for you to be creative. To tell the world that we exist, we are human, we are part of Indonesia and that we are not miserable people, we are happy people but what we need is just give us opportunities,” Resa said. 

International volunteers from England, the United States, Australia and China teach the children English and other extra-curricular activities that Resa says would help to build their confidence. 

Resa Boenard, founder of BGBJ, aims to nurture and inspire children living near the landfill. /CGTN Photo

A recent research shows that Jakarta produces more than 7,000 square meters of garbage per day and all of them end up in the Bantar Gebang landfill. 

But for many families that live in this area, the mountain of waste has become a big business.

Each week as truckloads of garbage pulls up at the landfill, adults and even children as young as five years old scavenge for leftovers and anything that they can eventually sell. For many of them, making two U.S. dollars a day from the trash is a good wage. 

Bekasi’s mayor Rahmat Effendi says that situation is not ideal. The scavengers continuously put their health and wellbeing in danger every time they walk through the garbage. He believes a drastic change needs to happen. 

Jakarta produces more than 7,000 tons of trash per day that ends up in the landfill. 

“Jakarta has been dumping trash here since the ’80s. There is no management yet but we are committed to changing that this year. We need a system to eradicate the trash, not just recycle it. But how do we completely eliminate the mountain of waste that keeps piling up daily? The time has come for us to get rid of it. If we keep recycling, the problem will never end,” he said.

Experts are now warning the administration that the landfill might already reach its maximum capacity, meaning Bantar Gebang has already been pushed to its breaking point and might be forced to close in the next three years.

That will leave even more garbage unattended, but the Jakarta administration is currently constructing a processing facility that can handle up to 100 tons of trash per day to minimize this growing problem.