Zero Waste Indonesia

Flag-map_of_Indonesia_zero_waste_weekThe Waste Problem

Like it or not, waste is a source of income for a lot of people in Jakarta, Indonesia. Scavengers roam around the city – they can be found in residential areas, CBDs, and even in landfills. They search for used items (paper, electronics, furniture, etc) and recyclables (PET bottles, plastic bags). They sell these to collectors, who afterwards handle them to recycle centers, big and small. You can see the waste management involves a lot of people outside the formal body of sanitation agency. This is one of the reasons why the government is not yet passing a strict law to reduce waste.

Paid plastic bags in supermarkets & minimarkets was once introduced in Jakarta & other major Indonesian cities. This regulation directed people to BYO shopping bag & was quite successful in doing so. After several months of trial period, the regulation was canceled out. The government didn’t come out with a permanent law to enforce paid plastic bags scheme. This has been a major disappointment for the zw community in Indonesia. There had been a strong hope that the regulation would be a good start for Indonesia to overcome its waste problem.

The waste that goes to recycle centers only counts for a tiny fraction of the entire waste. Most part of the waste stays in the landfill or gets burnt in the incinerator. Landfills are usually located at the outskirts of the city. This also creates problem. The surrounding towns are not happy accommodating the big city’s trash. A lot of Indonesian people are also still throwing away trash to the water body, be it a river or the sea.


Opportunities to Reduce Waste & Clean Up the Environment

Common Composting Methods (please google them for more details):

Takakura Bin: DIY compost bin that turns kitchen scraps into dry humus. The humus can be used as plant fertilizer.

Biopores: Narrow & deep holes (10 cm in diameter & 1 meter deep) in the garden made using a manual drill. Simply toss the kitchen scraps into the hole and let nature do the work. Besides acting as a composter, biopores also help to pass rainwater quickly into the ground & reduce the risk of flooding. After 2-3 months, you can harvest the humus & use it as plant fertilizer, or just push them in to make space for new compost – the nutrients will be absorbed anyway by the soil surrounding the biopores.

Anaerob Compost Bin: Compost bin with starter that turns kitchen scraps into humus and liquid fertilizer (called lindi).


ZW social media accounts. As the zw movement is starting to be popular, several accounts dedicated to zw lifestyle have sprung. Here are some of them:

IG @zerowasteadventure – by Siska, who loves to hike without making any trash. She has also independently published a book by the same title as her IG account.

IG @zerowastenusantara – by the admins of the FB group Zero Waste Nusantara Indonesia, promoting practical & fun zw lifestyle.

IG @lovearthindonesia – promoting zw & minimalist lifestyle.

IG @ecominimalist  – a vegan pastor who’s passionate about green living.

FB Page Zero Waste – The MiO Way – practical tips to go zw with babies & kids in the house.


ZW Shopping  & Eating:

So far, there’s only 1 zw shop that I know of: Green Mommy Shop in Malang, East Java. It has a physical store as well as an online store, selling natural & package-free body care & home cleaning products. It also provides vegan/organic meal package & workshops/seminars concerning zw life.

Traditional wet market can be found everywhere in Indonesia. We can shop completely plastic-free in these markets, as long as we make it clear to the sellers that we’re using our own grocery bags.

Some modern supermarkets can also accommodate zw shopping. SOP / working protocols are quite loose in Indonesia, so customers can still have a say in how we want to package our grocery products (meat, fish, vegs & fruits).

BYO lunchboxes & tumblers for meal takeaway, including in chain fast food. Just like in supermarkets, the protocols & hygiene standards here are not so high. If you ask nicely, staffs in restaurants will fulfill your request to use your own containers instead of their disposables. Some restaurants also use disposables even for dine-ins, so always be prepared & bring your own lunchbox & cutleries when you intend to dine in these eateries.

Be firm when you order drinks ANYWHERE that you don’t want to have straws. Even after you make this particular request, sometimes they still put straws in your drink. Thus, be very firm. Act like you’re allergic to it, if necessary J


Recycling Centers & Waste Banks:

  1. Tzu Chi Buddhist Organization ( They accept almost all kinds of recyclables: paper, plastics, glass, metals, batteries, electronics, books, clothes, used cooking oil. They sort & recycle them, then sell the recycled goods & use the profit for social activities. They have their own trucks to pick up the recyclables from certain residential areas. You can also deliver the things to their collection points – usually the homes of their activists. More info: [email protected] or call 021-50559999.
  2. Ignatius Waste Bank by Zero Waste Home Indonesia Movement. The recyclables they accept are similar to Tzu Chi. They even accept Tetra Pak boxes. More info: [email protected] or directly drop off the recyclables to Jalan Malang no 22, Menteng, Jakarta on Mondays only, 10 am – noon.
  3. e-Waste Drop Off Points, managed by local government’s Environmental Services. Jakartans can drop off their electronics waste during Car Free Day sessions around Hotel Indonesia roundabout.

There are several other waste banks found in google, but those centers are the ones I’m familiar with.

Going Back to Local Traditional Wisdom used before modern packaging & cleaning products became common:

  1. Using banana leaves & other leaves as food wrappers, from snacks (kue pisang, lemper), rice (lontong, nasi timbel, ketupat, bacang), to fermented food (tape ketan, tempe).
  2. Using soapnuts (lerak) for washing the dishes, do the laundry, other household cleanings and showering.
  3. Making eco enzymes from kitchen scraps (fermenting kitchen scraps) for household cleaning (like soapnuts).
  4. Using cloth napkins & handkerchiefs instead of tissue paper.
  5. Using cloth nappies & menstrual pads instead of toxic disposable ones.
  6. BYO cloth bags, shopping baskets, tiffins (rantang) for shopping & takeaways.
  7. Buying quality products & mending broken things instead of throwing away things after only a short period of usage.
  8. Growing your own herbs (or even vegs & fruits) in the garden.
  9. Collecting experiences & memories instead of things.