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FEATURE STORY May 31, 2019

Meet the Innovators Battling Plastic Waste in Indonesia: Mohamad Bijaksana Junerosano


Marine plastics have put our oceans in danger. By 2050, it is estimated the volume of plastic will be greater than that of fish in the sea. Countries in East Asia and the Pacific contribute the most to marine plastic pollution. For World Oceans Day 2019, we are shining a spotlight on innovators working to stem the tide of marine debris in the epicenter of this crisis.

Mohamad Bijaksana Junerosano (Sano) is the founder and Managing Director of Waste4Change, a social-enterprise focused on responsible waste management in Indonesia.


Tell us about yourself and your work.

My idealism on waste management was formed when I was about to graduate high school and saw a news report about the waste problem on TV. All of a sudden, I knew what my calling was. I then decided to major in environmental engineering in college. After graduating, I have been promoting an environmentally friendly lifestyle through Greeneration Indonesia (GI), the first business my friends and I established in 2008. And because I believe that waste management needs more concrete solutions to create better impact, I established Waste4Change in 2014.

How is plastic waste an issue for oceans/waterways in Indonesia?

Plastic is very easy to find in daily life in Indonesia. It’s in coffee cups, shopping bags, snack packaging, bottled water. It’s everywhere. Every day, Indonesia generates 175,000 tons of waste and about 14% or 24,500 tons a day of plastics. Unfortunately, currently 81% of waste in Indonesia is unsorted; making it difficult to recycle, causing plastic waste to end up in landfills or leak into the ocean instead. As plastic takes hundreds of years to degrade, plastics in landfills and oceans will continue to pollute for several generations.

According to the World Bank’s Indonesia Marine Debris Hotspots Rapid Assessment, 20% of plastic waste in Indonesia is believed to end up in rivers and coastal waters. Every 20 minutes, the equivalent of a 10-ton truckload of plastic is dumped into the waters around Indonesia. And a recent study in 2015 stated that Indonesia is the world’s second-largest contributor to plastic pollutants in the oceans. Looking at this fact, plastic waste is a very serious issue to Indonesia’s environment. We have to prevent and manage it better as soon as possible.

When did you first get involved in trying to address this issue?

Through Greeneration Indonesia, in 2008 we created baGoes bag – a foldable reusable shopping bag – as part of #DietKantongPlastik, our campaign to reduce the use of plastic bags. Plastic bags contribute quite a lot to Indonesia’s waste, as our research in 2009 indicated that on average Indonesians consume 700 plastic bags, per person, each year.

Through Waste4Change, we are committed to making changes to the conventional collect-transport-dump waste management scheme. Waste4Change came up with a solution of sorted waste collection service to ensure recyclable waste such as plastic bottles or plastic cups are utilized, instead of being mixed and dumped into landfills or leak into the ocean.

What do you hope your work can achieve?

The idea of Waste4Change is to create a service provider to solve waste management problems in Indonesia. By implementing the circular economy and zero waste concept in our waste management business, we hope we can achieve a cleaner Indonesia.


What motivates or inspires you?

I believe working on waste management has always been my calling. In the Japanese concept, this is called ikigai - the source of value in someone’s life or something that makes someone’s life valuable.

Naturally, I might get tired and exhausted because of work. But because I fight for myikigai, I can always find my way back to myikigai with a full spirit. For me, providing responsible waste management is myikigai. Challenges in waste management will motivate me to keep going.

How can people get involved?

The very first step to preventing plastic or waste pollution is to start sorting your waste first. According to Indonesia’s Statistic Agency, currently, 81% of garbage in Indonesia is unsorted; 10% is sorted but will end up being mixed again; while only 9% is sorted and reused. With Waste4Change, people who already sort their plastic waste can have it collected and sorted - not mixed like the current conventional system.

We have two programs: ‘Send Your Waste’ and ‘DropBox’. By joining the Send Your Waste program, people can send their inorganic waste to Waste4Change, and we will make sure that the waste is properly managed. They can also bring their sorted waste to the nearest DropBox. Currently, there are 170 DropBoxes in Jakarta and Bekasi. They can also hire us to collect their sorted waste at home if their house is located within Waste4Change service area. Joining our responsible waste management program will be an opportunity for people to contribute to prevent waste pollution.

What is the one change you’d like to see every person in Indonesia make to reduce plastic pollution?

Seeing 100% of Indonesians sorting their waste.