Non-organic waste collected by Catholics from the Holy Family Parish in Rawamangun, East Jakarta, is deposited at the Bhakti Semesta Waste Bank before being weighed. (Photo supplied)
Since Jakarta Archdiocese introduced an anti-plastic waste campaign back in 2006, many parishes and individuals have taken it seriously.
The campaign to “collect waste, and make it a blessing” has inspired many Catholics, including Lucia Mona Hartari Windoe from the Holy Family Parish in Rawamangun, East Jakarta.
In February 2016, Mona launched a waste management program called the Bhakti Semesta Waste Bank in her parish, just as the country marked its 10th National Waste Care Day.
Through the initiative, she encouraged Catholics in her parish to collect their plastic waste, instead of throwing it away and creating an environmental problem.
She said a waste bank is not a place where people dump their garbage, but rather an initiative to help parishioners who have waste at their homes but do not know what to do with it.
The goal is to raise people’s awareness to care for the environment, and at the same time make a profit out of waste, she said.
In doing so, with the support of her parish priest, she cooperated with the East Jakarta Environment Agency who provided trucks to pick the waste up.
“All the parishioners have to do is to regularly bring their garbage to the waste bank and the trucks will immediately take them for recycling,” she said.
However, Mona admitted that setting the system up was no easy task.
She spent the first year selling the waste bank idea to parishioners and teaching them how to sort non-organic waste to send to the bank in exchange for money.
“It took time because they didn’t realize that non-organic waste could be a blessing to them,” she said.
“Also, in the beginning, many had not thought about sorting non-organic waste and how to go about it,” she added.
Her efforts paid off.
The waste bank has attracted 219 communities within the parish, which send non-organic waste — plastic bottles, old newspapers and cardboard among other things — to the waste bank on the first and the third Saturday of each month.
The bank buys their waste, with one kilogram of used newspapers fetching 1,900 rupiahs (about US$0.13). However, the money comes from the East Jakarta Environment Agency, not the parish.
“All the money goes to customers. I just want to encourage a change in their behavior,” Mona said.
One of the communities, the St. Mary Immaculate Neighborhood Community now has more than eight million rupiah (about US$559) in savings after joining the waste bank initiative in March 2016.
With 60 families, the community can raise about one million rupiah a month to go towards activities such as going on pilgrimage or supporting an orphanage.
“Our main purpose is to preserve the environment and to continue reminding ourselves to keep this planet green,” Aloisius Hananto S. Prabowo a community member said.
“The economic benefit is only ‘a bonus,’” he added.
Catholics from St. Mary Immaculate Neighborhood Community in Rawamangun, East Jakarta, sort non-organic waste at a parishioner’s house before sending it to the parish’s waste bank. (Photo supplied)
Mona’s success has encouraged other parishes to establish waste banks similar to hers. Among them is St. Anna Parish in Duren Sawit, East Jakarta, which established its Anugerah Semesta Alam Waste Bank in December 2018.
“Our one is still young, but it has shown good progress. We now have more than 150 customers,” said Yakobus Supriyanto, who takes care of the parish’s environment desk, adding that his parish’s waste bank opens twice a month.
The Indonesian Environment and Forestry Ministry has encouraged waste banks, calling them a good program to sort and manage waste right from its source.
According to the ministry, waste banks have mushroomed in the past four years, from 1,172 units to 7,488. They have contributed to reducing national waste by 1.7 percent or by 1,389,522 tons per year and generate nearly 1.5 billion rupiah on average per year.
According to environmental groups, the country deals with about 64 million tons of plastic a year, 3.2 million tons of which end up in the ocean. About 11 percent of that total is produced in Jakarta.
The authorities say they fully appreciate what is being attempted through the waste banks,
“Places of worships [such as churches] are doing great work which is in line with government efforts to reduce and better manage waste,” said Maria Claret from East Jakarta’s Environment Agency.
Father Yohanes Sutrisno of Holy Family Parish, said waste banks, need to become a universal effort among Catholics to preserve the environment.
“I hope through parishioners will be able to finally dispose of their domestic waste, both organic and non-organic in a way that does not pollute the earth,” the priest said.
He also hoped such schemes will encourage people to reduce the amount of waste they produce.
“Cutting out plastic bag use and using their own water helps could help a lot,” he said.