Reducing or avoiding?

So what can we personally do about the waste emergency? And what do others do already?


Reducing waste

In October last year, a rule for customers in Indonesia to pay for plastic bags at stores was scrapped by a Retail Enterprises Association. This was a huge step backwards in the efforts to reduce waste and protect the environment. However, the city of Bandung recently prohibited the use of styrofoam packaging, not only for restaurants and food vendors, who pack takeaway food, but also for bigger industries. The city aims not only to save the rivers from being inundated with Styrofoam, which causes flooding, but also to protect the health of its citizens. Styrofoam is known to contain cancer-causing chemicals.

The United Nations also finally declared a war on waste. By introducing the „CleanSeas campaign“, they demand greater involvement from governments in the reduction of plastic waste. Industries shall reduce plastic packaging and design products more sustainably. Consumers are requested to rethink their wastefulness „before our oceans suffer from further irreversible damage“, the UN states.


It is possible in small steps on a local level as well, as the Jogja community school proves. They have introduced “plastic-free days, on which the students are not allowed to bring any disposable plastic to school. This way, the students and their parents learn that it is possible to bring snacks and drinks without using plastic and hopefully adopt this change in their daily habits.

The real solution

The obvious solution is avoiding disposable packaging altogether. It is not only the waste that is produced that causes environmental and health problems. Most environmental impacts take place during the manufacturing of the product.

Recycling is definitely needed. But there are different grades of plastic. When recycled, plastic is most often down-cycled into a lower grade. The lower the grade the less the value. The less the value, the less likely it is to be recycled again.

So we need to prevent environmental harm before it happens. This is a much more sustainable approach to just treating the symptoms of the problem. While the waste problem obviously has to be addressed by the government, we can all contribute by avoiding disposable plastic products as much as possible.


Are there alternatives to plastic?

Some big companies are trying to tackle the plastic waste in the oceans by recycling it into yarn and creating fancy clothes. Parley for the Oceans and Adidas produce a shoe made out of ocean plastic and old fishing nets. G-Star and the musician Pharrel Williams promote their „bionic yarn“ made from PET bottles that were collected in the oceans. While this is definitely a good way to advocate for the use of less plastic, it doesn’t solve the problem as such. Each time plastic based clothes are washed, small particles dissolve and are washed back into rivers and oceans.

There are other companies that have developed alternative products to address the ever-increasing amount of plastic that is thrown away every day. The Indian start-up Bakeys produces baked edible spoons, knives and chopsticks that come in different flavours. If they are not eaten, they biodegrade within 5 days. The German company Leaf Republic sells disposable plates made from leaves. These are as stable as plastic and fully biodegradable.

In Indonesia, several inspiring alternatives are on the market.

The Bali-based company Avani offers plastic bags made from cassava, which are completely degradable and compostable and can break down under water and on land.

XXLab, a female collective from Jogja is focusing on art, science and free technology. They use the waste that is produced in soy production and that would otherwise pollute the rivers to develop edible cellulose, biofuel and bio leather.


How can I take responsibility for what I consume?

Reduce your consumption of plastic items!

  • Buy „refill“ packages for shampoo/oil/soap etc
  • Bring your own shopping bag or ask for a box instead of several plastic bags in the supermarket
  • Buy your vegetables and fruit at a market where they are not wrapped in plastic and politely decline having them packed in a plastic bag, but use your own bag instead.
  • Use refillable bottles/ containers for food
  • Repair broken things instead of throwing them away and buying new ones

Make sure your waste gets recycled!

  • Join a bank sampah
  • Buy recycled/upcycled products
  • The initiative „Take 3“ encourages everyone to collect 3 pieces of waste wherever you go and throw them somewhere where they can be collected for recycling.

Make sure everyone knows the problem!

  • Ask your favourite shop/ restaurant not to use as much plastic anymore as it is important to you as a customer
  • Demand the banning of plastic bags as is already the case in Rwanda and Bangladesh, soon to be followed by France and the state of California #banthebag
  • Talk about reducing waste with your family, friends, neighbours and colleagues.
  • Stop burning plastic or throwing waste into rivers and the ocean and prevent others from doing so!

Where to consume and buy eco-friendly/plastic-free in Jogja

  • While there is still a lot of plastic in the city, at least big supermarket chains such as Superindo and Mirota promote reusable bags and paper boxes instead of plastic bags.
  • Milas sells recycled handmade paper
  • ViaVia Fair Trade Shop tries to avoid plastic packaging
  • Milas and ViaVia sell  beautiful reusable bags
  • Lokaloka uses „we are not plastic“ bags and bamboo straws and you can return their juice bottles
  • Warung kita also sells these bamboo straws
  • At organic markets you are encouraged to bring your own bags and containers
  • Avanti cassava-based bags can be purchased online or at Mediterana restaurant/ at Sri Gaia at the Milas organic market.

We really hope that this is a very incomplete list and would love to hear from you about further shops/ restaurants etc that offer or use products that are an alternative to plastic. Please let us know and we will update the list! Thank you!


Are we in a state of waste emergency?

In 2015 the Ministry of Environment and Forestry almost declared a state of emergency because of the waste problem. Indonesia is the second biggest contributor to plastic waste in the oceans worldwide. Last month, at a UN environment meeting in Bali Indonesia promised to reduce its waste in the oceans by 70% by 2025. It is a huge task!

People in Indonesia produce an average of 0.7 kilograms of waste per day. This means that 64 million tons per year are mostly dumped into landfills. These dumpsites are not in a good state and are struggling to cope with the ever-increasing waste as the population grows and people consume more and more.


An ever growing mountain of waste

The dumpsite „TPST Piyungan„ in Imogiri is not known to many people. However, about 5000 people try to make a living here by picking up what they can sell (plastic, paper, glass). 433,609,377kg of waste were dumped here in 2016.

The neighbouring villages complain about the smell and the flies. There are literally millions of them that cover everything. When I first enter the heart of the dumpsite, where trucks unload waste from all over Yogya, I have to fight not to vomit because of the smell. Everyone around invested in Wellington boots. What a good idea! You never know what you will step into!


To get a closer picture of what happens here, I come closer to the people that gather around every truck that is being unloaded. They mostly pick up plastic. One woman finds a blouse and tries it on. A man finds a plastic glove that had air blown into it and was tied with a knot, so it looks like a hand. He waves at me and laughs. Actually this is not funny at all as he picked it out of a bag of hazardous hospital waste. There are needles and used tissues. I don’t even want to think about what kind of diseases could be transmitted by touching this.


Most of the pemulung (garbage pickers) don’t wear gloves or any other protection. A city council trainee who works here tells me that the government provides free health services every 3 months.

„I am most afraid of broken glass that hides somewhere and cuts open my hands and arms when I look for plastic“, sighs a lady.

1000 cows „graze“ here permanently to reduce the organic waste. A cow pushes me further into the mountain of garbage. Trucks come and go; twice I have to jump out of their way at the last second. A calf is not as lucky. It gets hit by a truck. Two women carry it away in a wheelbarrow. People keep on picking.


The trucks are weighed when they enter the dumpsite. They pay monthly, depending on how heavy their load is. This is financed by the fees that households pay for the service of getting their waste picked up. As a family of four, we pay 30,000 Rp a month. Not everyone can afford that. Therefore, people still burn their waste. There is still a long way to go, but some small progress is being made.

We will report about that in our next blog, so stay tuned!



Plastic in the oceans

Some weeks ago, we spent a night in Parangtritis. It was pouring down that night. When we woke up, the clouds were gone, but the beach looked like a dump-site. The waste that people upriver in Yogyakarta had thrown into the rivers had been swept into the ocean and part of it was being washed ashore by the waves.

Globally, 32% of the 78 million tons of plastic packaging produced annually flows into the oceans. This means that every minute, one garbage truck of plastic is “thrown” into the seas. If this continues, this could mean that by 2050, there will be more plastic than fish in the world’s oceans.


Just the tip of the iceberg

Most of the plastic in the oceans is not washed back to the shore, but creates gigantic garbage swirls. In the midst of the ocean you will find huge circular sea currents, which absorb the plastic waste and rotate it constantly. The most famous garbage swirl is the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch” in the North Pacific, which is growing every year. It has reached the size of Kalimantan and Sumatra combined.

In every km2 of the ocean, you can find up to 46,000 pieces of plastic waste. The amount of plastic floating at the surface is so big that it can be seen from space – huge garbage „carpets“ that move with the currents. However, the plastics floating at the surface are only the tip of the iceberg. More than 70 percent of the plastic waste sinks to the seabed. Only 15% is washed back to the land. If you visit some beaches in Bali these days it is hard to imagine that it is only that small percentage. There are plastic bags, old plastic shoes and all kinds of waste along the once picture-perfect stretches of sand.


A disastrous fate 

Coastal inhabitants and sea creatures are suffering from the plastic overload. 267 marine species are directly affected by the plastic waste, according to a report by the United Nations Environment Programme. Turtles get trapped in old fishing nets and nylon strings, and they feed on plastic bags, as they confuse them with jellyfish. Toxic additives in the plastic that dissolve into the sea affect the oceans’ flora and fauna. Partly decomposed plastic particles can be found everywhere in our oceans. Fish, shrimp and small organisms such as plankton eat them and so they come back through the food chain to human beings in the end.

Read more: http://www.oceanconservancy.org/our-work/marine-debris/mckinsey-report-files/full-report-stemming-the.pdf

What can we personally do about this shocking development? Stay tuned and follow us on http://www.mysemar.wordpress.com



SEMAR: Sehat-Ekonomis-Manfaat-Artistik-Ramah lingkungan

Di perkenalkan 100 tahun yang lampau, kita mengenal banyak keuntungan dengan adanya plastik. Lebih ringan dibandingkan besi atau kaca, dan plastrik juga lebih mudah dibentuk, cenderung stabil, dan murah biaya produkinya. Saat orangtua kita masih bisa mengingat benda plastik apa yang pertama kali mereka miliki, kita sudah dikelilingi dengan berbagai benda platik disekitar kita. Sekarang ini, plastik  ada banyak jenis dan beragam cara menggunakan plastik. Bayi menggunakan kempeng plastik, anak-anak bermain dengan bermacam-macam mainan plastik, dan kita? Kita masing-masing memiliki sepasang atau bahkan dua pasang sendal plastik. Setiap hari, kita memproduksi berbagai macam sampah plastik, karena, hampir semua barang kita bungkus dengan plastik, untuk kemudian kita masukkan lagi ke dalam kantong plastik.


Pastik terbuat dari limbah kimia dari sisa  industri minyak. Limbah kimia ini tidak lagi bisa diserap ulang oleh tanah disekitar kita. Plastik bukanlah biograde tetapi photograde. Ini berarti bahwa plastik (setelah bersentuhan dengan material sejenis air dan sinar matahari) lambat laun setelah bertahun-tahun, akan terurai menjadi serpihan-serpihan kecil yang beracun. Dan secara kebetulan, potongan-potongan itu bahkan saat potongannya itu menjadi sangat kecil hingga bisa terserap oleh tumbuh-tumbuhan, ikan, dan binatang lainnya yang akhirnya akan kita konsumsi. Saat dibakar, plastik akan menghasilkan molekul dioksin beracun, yang setelah mengalami penguapan, molekul itu akan jatuh kembali ke bumi bersama dengan air hujan, yang akhirnya akan terserap kembali oleh tanah dan hutan. Ini berarti kita tidak bisa sekedar membuang plastik begitu saja, karena dampak sampah plastik ini, melekat dan terus menerus dari generasi ke generasi.


Banyak sekali alasan mengapa plastik menjadi masalah. Mari kita mulai membahas dari yang paling dekat, yaitu dengan alasan terdekat kenapa plastik berdampak langsung bagi kita.

Plastik tidak hanya merusak saat sudah dibuang sebagai sampah. Kandungan zat kimia dalam plastik, dalam mainan plastik dan lainnya bisa menyebabkan kanker. Beberapa bahan pembuat plastik yang terkandung dalam beberapa barang plastik yang banyak dipergunakan disini, di Indonesia, bahkan sudah dilarang dipergunakan di Eropa. Kandungan yang sangat merusak ini bahkan sudah bisa terdeteksi dalam darah, dari kebanyakan kita, dan bekerja persis sama seperti halnya hormon. Kandungan berbahaya ini bahkan bisa merusak sistem hormonal kita. Beberapa penelitian menunjukkan adanya keterkaitan antara kemandulan dan kanker pada kaum laki-laki dengan unsur berbahaya dalam plastik. Masalah lain yang mungkin timbul adalah berbagai penyakit bawaan lahir atau penyakit degeneratif lainnya.   Molekul BPA yang berbahaya yang bisa memicu serangan jantung, ditemukan dalam kotak plastik, bahan penambal gigi, dan kaleng (1). Molekul-molekul ini terakumulasi dalam tubuh kita dan terpapar sejak dari ibu sampi kepada anak2nya.


Beberapa orang berusaha bersikap ‘anti plastik’ dengan cara membakar sampah plastik secara terang-terangan, dipinggir jalan atau dipekarangan rumah. Ini sangat mengganggu kesehatan. Racun semacam karbon monoksida terlepas bebas ke udara. Racun ini pemicu kanker, impotensi, asma, beberapa jenis alergi, serta berbagai penyakit saluran nafas lainnya. Kandungan beracun yang terhisap dari asap yang dihasilkan karena pembakaran sampah plastik bisa jadi juga memicu ketidakseimbangan hormon. Peneliti menemukan fakta, bahwa menghisap asap pembakaran sampah plastik mengubah karakter seksual pada beberapa jenis burung, dari jantan menjadi betina. Mereka menemukan fakta, bahwa beberapa efek semacam itu dimungkinkan juga bisa terjadi pada manusia. Membakar plastik, jika tidak dilakukan dalam temperatur tertentu, tidak serta merta menghancurkan plastik tersebut dengan segala kandungan racun didalamnya. Bahkan abu sisa pembakarannya juga tetap saja membahayakan, hingga semestinya tidak bisa begitu saja kita buang ke dalam tanah. Plastik tidak seharusnya dibakar di tempat terbuka. Ada beberapa opsi daur ulang yang bisa kita lakukan untuk memanfaatkan sampah plastik.


Indonesia, merupakan negara kedua penghasil plastik terbesar di Indonesia, hanya sedikit lebih rendah dari China. Maka sebaiknya, ini jadi isu besar bagi kita. Kita akan lanjutkan bagian kita ini dengan bahasan mengenai sampah plastik dilautan, berbagai sistem pengelolaan sampah di Jogjakarta, ecobricks dan berbagai alternatif solusi yang bisa kita lakukan, sebagai wujud keterlibatan kita  untuk mendaur ulang atau memanfaatkan kembali sampah yang kita hasilkan, sebagai upaya kita mengurangi sampah plastik.

Jika kamu tertarik untuk berbagi informasi atau ingin tergabung dengan SEMAR, silahkan hubungi kami. Kami juga sangat tertarik untuk mengetahui, dimana alternatif pemanfaatan sampah ekologis di Yogyakarta.


Plastic- a blessing or a curse?


Introduced 100 years ago, there are many advantages to plastic. It is lighter than metal or glass, easily formed, stable and inexpensive to produce,  While my parents can still remember the first plastic object that their parents bought, I was already surrounded by it as a child. Nowadays, plastic is everywhere. There are many varieties and multiple ways of using it. Babies are given plastic pacifiers, kids play with plastic toys, we all have a pair or two of plastic flip flops. Everyday, we produce large amounts of plastic waste as almost everything is wrapped and then packed again in plastic.

There is no away!

plastic collectors at one of Yogya’s biggest dumpsites in Imogiri

Plastics are made from petrol chemicals. These chemicals cannot be absorbed back into the ecologies around us. Plastics don’t biodegrade, they photo-degrade. This means that plastic (in contact with water or the sun) after years and years will slowly break into smaller poisonous pieces. Eventually they are so small, that they absorbed by the plants, fish and animals that we eat. When burned, plastic creates poisonous dioxin molecules that then rain back down onto fields and forests. This means that we cannot simply throw plastic away as it will stick around for generations.

Why is this a problem? 

There are many! Let us start with the problems that affect us directly.

Plastic is not only harmful when it is
thrown away. Plasticizers in toys or other plastic items can cause cancer. Many of the ingredients in plastic items that are on the market here, are forbidden in Europe. These harmful substances can be found in the blood of almost all of us and work in a similar way to hormones. They can seriously damage our hormonal systems.  Studies have shown a link between infertility and cancer in men due to harmful substances in plastic. Other effects are birth and degenerative diseases. Dangerous  BPA  molecules which cause heart disease are found in plastic boxes, tooth fillings and tins. These molecules bioaccumulate in our bodies and are passed on through mothers to the young.

Stop burning plastic!

Cows living permanently on a huge dump site in Imogiri, Yogyakarta

Some try to get rid of plastic waste by burning it openly on the street or in their backyard. This is dangerous to our health. Poisons such as carbon monoxide are released into the air. These poisons cause cancer, impotence, asthma, many allergies and respiratory diseases.

Toxic components inhaled through smoke from burning plastic materials may cause hormonal imbalance. Researchers found that inhaling burnt plastic materials causes an alteration in the sexual characteristics of birds (from male to female). They have discovered the same defects can easily occur in human beings.

Setting plastic on fire simply does not reach high enough temperatures to destroy many of the dangerous chemicals created when plastic burns. The ash is also potentially hazardous and should not be spread on the soil. Plastic should never be burned in the open air. There are recycling options available for many of these products.


To be continued

Indonesia is the second biggest plastic producer in the world, only “beaten” by China. So this is a huge topic!

We will continue this series with articles about plastic in the oceans, the waste system in Yogya, waste banks/ bank sampah, ecobricks and other creative solutions to the waste problem, as well as some suggestions of what each of us can to in the short or long term to contribute to the reduction and recycling of waste. If you have ideas regarding these topics that you want to share, or are interested in a collaboration with SEMAR, please contact us. We are also keen to know where eco-friendly alternatives are available in Yogya!


Upcycling sebagai sebuah sikap

SEMAR: Sehat-Ekonomis-Manfaat-Artistik-Ramah lingkungan

Ketika saya harus mencari organisasi berwawasan lingkungan yang ada di daeraah tersebut (Jogjakarta), teman menyarankan saya untuk mengunjungi kota Salatiga. Setelah melewati perjalanan dengan pemandangan a;am yang memukau di kaki Gunung Merbabu, saya bertemu dengan salah seorang anggota SAPU dan Komunitas TUK. Di sebuah rumah joglo, saya disambut oleh Rudy dan Ayok, dua orang penggagas dan sekaligus anggota TUK. Saya tidak bisa menahan diri untuk tidak melihat-lihat ruang pamer benda-benda upcycle buatan mereka, dimana perhiasan, tas, hingga barang-barang upcycle yang lainnya di pajang.

Produk upcycle dari SAPU

Di halaman belakang, saya melihat dan mendengar orang-orang bekerja dengan mesin jahit, mesin jahit khusus yang sudah di modifikasi oleh Ayok. Disini, SAPU membuat barang-barang yang berseni dan bermakna, dari ban bekas baik ban dalam atau ban luar, drum bekas, botol bekas, majalah bekas, juga barang bekas lainnya agar bisa menjadi barang yang lebih berguna dan berseni.

Menggabungkan berbagi usaha untuk menciptakan perubahan

‘SAPU?’ saya bertanya dengan heran, bukankah itu adalah alat pembersih lantai dalam Bahasa Jawa.

‘Ya” Ayok menjawab sambil tertawa, dibuat dari banyak batang lidi yang diikat secara bersama-sama. Sama seperti halnya sapu, SAPU merupakan gabungan dari banyak orang yang terdiri atas ilmuwan, aktivis, seniman, musisi, teman, perancang, penjahit, pengumpul sampah, penulis, penggrajin, baik darii Jawa Tengah, Indonesia, dan Australia, mereka bersepakat untuk kreatif dan produktif, dan lepas dari itu semua, mereka ingin membuat perubahan.

Mereka memasarkan produk buatan mereka dengan cara yang etis baik secara profesional maupun sosial. Empatbelas pekerja mereka semua mendapatkan upah yang layak, asuransi, bonus, juga jam kerja yang jelas.

Ayok, prancang desain di SAPU. Lihat lampu upcyle di atas

Menginspirasi baik didalam maupun di luar negeri

Selama ini banyak produknya diperjual belikan di Bali dan di luar negeri, hanya kisaran 25% nya saja yang dibeli oleh orang Indonesia. Ini bukan masalah harga jualnya, karena barang-barang yang berjenis  sama di pusat perbelanjaan kadang malahan lebih mahal dari barang upcycle, tetapi karena barang upcycle ‘kurang’ menarik. Namun demikian, baik produk maupun gagasan mereka tersebut cukup mendapatkan perhatian dan dukungan dari masayarakat luas.

Tujuan kami tidak hanya melulu membuat produk yang menarik dan berseni, tetapi membuat dan mengajak orang berpikir tentang hidup yang berkelanjutan dan tentang bagaimana mereka peduli dengan lingkungan mereka sendiri, begitu pendapat mereka.

Kami berharap, akan menginspirasi munculnya perubahan lingkungan ke arah yang lebih baik, dengan mengubah peilaku dan sikap hidup orang-orang yang datang ke SAPU upcycle.

Berawal dari kegiatan bersih sungai

Kebanyakan bahan baku di SAPU sekarang ini, kami beli dari bank sampah. Tetapi pada mulanya, kegiatan ini muncul karena ada acara bersih sungai pada tahun 2006. Seorang kawan yang kebetulan seniman, membuat dompet dari sampah plastik yang dikumpulkan. Acara tersebut merupakan bagian dari sebuah acara yang digelar tahunan, yaitu Festival Mata Air. Dengan menggabungan seni dan semangat, kami, seniman, relawan, dan aktivis, bergabung untuk bersama dan sepakat untuk melakukan sesuatu yang berkaitan dengan lingkungan, khususnya untuk konservasi air. Saya sangat yakin, bahwa menumbuhkan ideologi lingkungan dalam diri manusia itu, sama pentingnya dengan menanam pohon itu sendiri, kata Rudy, salah seorang penggagasnya. Maka, selain mengadakan pameran, seminar, workshop, penanaman pohon, mereka juga mengorganisir diadakannya kegiatan bersih sungai dan mata air.

Gagasan terus saja berkembang, banyak energi positif mereka dapatkan demi pemanfaatan barang bekas agar lebih bernilai, dan bukan saja barang bekas, namun juga barang-barang yang bahkan sudah dibuang. Kami melihat banyaknya kesempatan pemanfaatn barang-barang yang kami anggap ‘bekas’, kata Ayok, sebagai perancang sekaligus kapala bagian kreatif di SAPU.  Di tahun 2010, SAPU dan TUK membelahdiri menjadi 2 lembaga, satu berwawasan sosial (non profit) sedang satunya sebagai sebuah usaha(profit), tetapi mereka tetap merupakan suatu kesatuan.

Proses dari dimulainya sebuah perubahan

Berbagai produk upcycle dari SAPU

TUK membuat mainan dari bahan daur ulang, sebagian dibuat bahak bersama anak-anak.  Saya kaget saat mendengar bahwa mereka bahkan pernah membuat arena bermain anak, yang keseluruhan bahan-bahannya adalah bahan daur ulang, semacam ban bekas baik ban dalam maupun ban luar, dan bahan yang pernah dipergunakan sebelumnya(bekas). Keadaan semacam ini, saat sesuatu yang baru diciptakan melalui sesuatu yang pernah digunakan sebelumnya, umumnya akan dipergunakan sebagai momen untuk berbagi ilmu tentang lingkunganbaik secara lokal maupun global.“ Kita berkampanye untuk mengajak orang mulai untuk berpikir! Disinilah proses perubahan itu terjadi,‘Rudy menegaskan.

Lebihlanjut, workshop di berbagai sekolah(bahkan juga di Australia) atau untuk berbagai agen perjalanan yang berwawasan ekologis seperti Via-via, merupakan kesempatan yang bagus untuk mendapatkan pemasukan yang jelas. Semua anggota TUK bekerja secara sukarela, tetapi uang jelas mereka butuhkan untuk pembiayaan operasional. Kebanyakan kegiatan dimana TUK terlibat dibiayai oleh beberapa teman, yang akan membantu semampu mereka saat diperlukan.

Proyek yang sedang berjalan adalah membuat beberapa bank sampah, pepustakaan di Salatiga, dan percobaan membuat rumah dengan bahan upcycle agar bisa menjadi contoh sekaligus menginspirasi pihak lain. Sebagai tambahan, sebuah tempat baru sedang di buka di Ubud, Bali, tempat dimana akan menjadi lokasi  Festival Mata Air tahun depan.

Semua ada di tangan kita

Saya katakan, bahwa saya sungguh terkesan dengan segala sesuatu yang sudah dicapai, dan betapa saya tergugah dengan suasana yang istimewa dan sedikit berbeda, yang kita bisa rasakan sesaat kita memasuki bangunannya. Dan menurut saya, tetap saja, merupakan tugas pemerintah setempat untuk mendukung segala upaya pengurangan sampah dan memastikan masyarakat mampu mengelola sampah mereka.

Bengkel kerja SAPU yang bertembat dihalaman belakang

“Pemerintah setempat biasanya membantu kegiatan kami,”Rudy sedikit kesal. Tetapi biasanya mereka tidak tertarik untuk terlibat atau setidaknya mengalokasikan separuh saja pembiayaan mereka untuk workshop, mereka meminta kita melakukan untuk mereka. Kamu tidak bisa mengandalkan mereka(pemerintah) untuk urusan ketahanan lingkungan. Kita bahakan tidak pernah punya pesta untuk lingkungan di negara ini. Ini bercanda!!”

Jadi, sepenuhnya ada ditangan kita untuk membagikan ini pada dunia. Silahkan bagi artikel ini jika kamu berkenan. Kita akan segera mengunggah beberapa seri blog yang berkaitan dengan plastik dan sampah. Jadi jangan sampai melewatkannya yaa..


Upcycling as a statement

Meet SAPU and TUK and be inspired of their approach to deal with waste…


SEMARSickeningEndlessMakes moneyArtificialReduce 

(…in each edition we try to find some words that are related to the overall topic- this time plastic and waste….)

While I was looking for an environmental organisation in the area, friends recommended that I drive to Salatiga. After a drive through the breathtaking scenery at the foot of Mount Merbabu, I meet members of SAPU and Komunitas TUK. In a traditional Joglo, I am welcomed by Ayok and Rudy, two of the founding members of TUK. I can’t resist checking out their little show room, where upcycled jewellery, bags and accessories are on display.

upcycled products by SAPU

In the backyard, I see and hear people working on sewing machines, which were modified by Ayok. Here, SAPU makes products, produces art and fashions messages from used inner tubes/ tyres, used oil drums, recycled trash, other used objects, plastic bottles, old magazines, second hand clothing and anything that can be turned into something useful and stylish.

Combined efforts to make a difference

“Sapu”, I wonder, “isn’t this a traditional Javanese broom?”

“Exactly”, laughs Ayuk. “It is made from a bundle of coconut sticks tied up together. This effective and strong tool works only by the combination of its single sticks. Likewise, SAPU believes that only in combination can this collective of craftspeople, designers, friends, sewers, trash collectors, artists, musicians, scientists, farmers and writers from Central Java, Indonesia and Australia be creative, productive and, above all, make a difference”.

All of their items are produced and distributed in ethical and socially responsible ways. The 14 employees receive the minimum salary plus transport support and a bonus. They are insured and have fixed working hours.

Ayok, the designer of SAPU. Check out the up cycled lamp on top!

Inspire people- here and abroad

So far, most of the products have been sold to foreigners in Yogya and Bali or abroad. Only 25% are bought by Indonesians. It is not necessarily a matter of the price, as many items that are being sold in malls are more expensive and still bought by many. It is rather that upcycled items are not considered “hip” yet. In addition, neither the products nor the ideas behind them – to conserve nature and reuse material – are widely known and supported.

“Our aims are not confined to the creation of beautiful objects. Through our work, we see the chance to inspire people to live a more sustainable way of life and to care for their own environment. We hope to inspire environmental change by changing the attitudes and behaviour of all those who come into contact with a SAPU product.”

It all started with a river clean up

Most of the material SAPU uses now is purchased from waste sorting (bank sampah) stations. However, it all started in 2006 with material collected at a river clean up. One artist created a wallet out of the plastic waste collected. The clean up was part of a yearly festival, called Festival Mata Air. Through connecting art and activism, the group of environmentally concerned artists and volunteers advocates on issues concerning the environment and especially water conservation. “We believe that to plant an environmental ideology is as important as planting trees itself” says Rudy, one of the founding members. So, in addition to exhibitions, environmental forums, reforestation and workshops, they also organised clean ups of rivers and springs.

This idea developed and more and more energy flew into creating something new out of materials that had already been used and would otherwise be thrown away. “We see possibilities in items which the majority of us would consider to be waste.” says Ayok, the designer and creative head of SAPU. In 2010 SAPU and TUK separated into profit and non-profit sections, but they are still closely interlinked.

The process of change begins

More up cycled products by SAPU

TUK creates toys out of reused material, often with kids themselves. I was surprised to hear that they even created a whole playground from old car tyres, inner tubes and other used materials. Occasions like this, when something new is created out of something old, are typically used to share knowledge about the local and global environment. “Our campaigns aim to make people start thinking! This is where the process of change begins.” states Rudy.

Moreover, workshops at schools (even in Australia) or for the sustainable travel agent Viavia are good opportunities to generate income. All TUK members work voluntarily, but money is still needed to remain operational.. Most of the activities that TUK are involved in are funded by friends that chip in whenever money is needed. Sometimes there is a donor for the yearly environmental art festival “Mata Air”, that reaches out to thousands of people. In addition, a percentage of the funds from what SAPU sells is used to fund TUK’s environmental activities.

Current projects are the setting up of a bank sampah and library in Salatiga and the experiment of creating an (almost) fully self-contained house to set an example and inspire others. Additionally, a new workshop was just opened in Ubud, Bali, where next year’s Festival Mata Air will take place.

SAPUs workshop in the backyard

It remains in our hands

I mention that I am very much impressed with what has been achieved and how inspired I am by the unique and uplifting atmosphere that you can feel when you enter the premises. In my opinion however, it should be a task of the local government to support waste reduction and make sure that people take care of the environment. “The local government occasionally supports our actions” sighs Rudy. But mostly they are not interested or try to put half of the budget allocated for a workshop they asked us to run in their own pockets. “You can’t count on the government when it comes to protecting the environment. We don’t even have a Green Party in this country. It’s a joke!”

So it remains in our hands to spread the word! Please share this article if you like it!

We will have a little series of blogs related to plastic and waste that will be published soon. Stay tuned!


Yummy Organic Vegetables


There is a small but vibrant scene of organic markets in Yogyakarta. More and more people are opting for this healthy alternative to regular vegetables. Others also care about the benefits organic farming has in terms of protecting the environment. Some may wonder what the advantage of eating organic vegetables is. What is all the fuss about it and why are they more expensive than the usual veggies that you can find everywhere?

Organic farming is about being in tune with nature, not about fighting it with chemicals. In that way, not only the consumer benefits from healthy, yummy tasting food, but also the earth profits from such methods. Come to a local organic market and let the organic farmer of your choice explain how it works!

Mas Ari, an organic farmer in Pakem, Yogyakarta
Mas Ari, an organic farmer in Pakem, Yogyakarta

Why Organic?

Organic farming means working with nature, not against it. It means lower levels of pesticides, no manufactured herbicides, orortificial fertilisers and more environmentally sustainable management of the land and natural environment. It is about keeping the local variety of seeds, that can be reproduced without being dependent on international agrobusinesses. 

It Takes Hard Work and A Lot Of Love

„It takes hard work and a lot of love“, says Mbak Septi, an organic farmer who sells her products with her husband Mas Budi at Milas organic market. To make sure that pesticides and chemical fertilizers do not infiltrate their water from neighboring farms, the water has to be filtered. For Mas Ari, an organic farmer in Pakem, the process of farming on soil where conventional agriculture took place before took three years. The soil on which pesticides and chemical fertilizers have been used needed this time to recover fully. In the meantime he could not sell his products as „organic“, although he already obeyed all the principles of organic farming. As there is no organic fertilizer on the market, farmers have to produce their own by composting. It is also very hard to protect plants from animals and diseases without pesticides. This is all more time-consuming than the regular way. And so the farmers have to add something to the price in order to be able to live from what they do. „It is enough to send my kids to school, but not for much more than that“, says Mas Ari.

On the other hand, organic farming is also about taking care of nature. Seeing her neighbors overusing pesticides and artificial fertilizers makes Mbak Septi so sad that she almost cries. „How can you do this to the soil that nourishes you? How can you do this to the soil that is supposed to nourish your children?“

A Rocky Road

In Indonesia, many farmers all over the country decide to leave their jobs and look for prestigious or better-paid jobs in the cities. This movement, the fact that more and more agricultural land is used for other purposes, such as buildings, and that the population of Indonesia is constantly growing, make for a dangerous combination.

Although Indonesia is a nation with one of the biggest varieties of edible plants, it is difficult and sometimes not possible anymore to buy organic seeds for certain plants. This leads to a decrease in the variety of local vegetables.

Moreover, there is a big dependence on international agro-businesses such as Monsanto, both on a small scale (individual farmers) and a large scale. The Indonesian government depends on Monsanto as their sole provider of rice seeds. Consequently, most of the country also depends on the chemical fertilizers and pesticides that the company sells.

Mbak Septi and Mas Budi, organic farmers from Yogyakarta
 Vegetable Smoothies Recipes by Mbak Septi

Prepare 4 petiole of ginseng leaves, 1 sprig of moringa leaves, 3 sprigs of purslane, 1 local coriander leave, 3 sprigs of mint leaves, 4 sprigs of basil (optional), 1 passion fruit,  wash carefully, add 3 pieces of banana,  then blend it with enough drinking  water. Enjoy!

Don’t Let the Knowledge Be Lost

In Yogyakarta, the organic movement started in the 1990s. „Back then, not many people knew about the risks of modern farming“, explains Imam Hidayat, one of the founders of the SAHANI cooperative, which tries to combine the efforts of small organic farmers who also practice fair trade.

Mas Dhana, a social business entrepreneur who sells organic vegetables and fruit to restaurants and at markets, tried to approach agricultural universities in Yogyakarta to see how organic farming could be incorporated into the curriculum. „So far, universities do not teach about organic farming at all. They are influenced by companies like Monsanto“. This makes it extremely hard for the ones trying to spread the knowledge to reach out to conventional farmers or young university graduates.

And even today, not many people are aware of the damage that conventional agriculture causes to our health and to nature. „Conventional agriculture (and its) input of synthetic chemicals or fertilizers (UREA, NPK, etc) accounts for a large amount of the greenhouse gas emissions“. It also „deteriorates soil quality, and eliminates biodiversity“.

So the challenge is to teach the next generation to learn again how to farm organically, as their families used to only a generation or two ago. If we look at most of the world’s agriculture today, it seems like there is no alternative to the use of pesticides and chemical fertilizers, especially if we listen to the big agro-chemical companies, who try to make us believe that only size and profit count. We should not forget that this road leads to the extinction of local knowledge and biodiversity. Only one or two generations ago, farmers all over the country produced healthy food without being dependent on UREA, a commonly used fertilizer.

Respect and Appreciate!

Nevertheless, slowly but steadily, the demand for organic vegetables is growing. Mas Ari receives visitors from other organic cooperatives and government offices who want to learn from his example. This makes him proud and hopeful that one day, more farmers will follow and do what is best for the earth and the consumer.  He wishes that consumers knew where their vegetables come from, and who put all the hard work into them to make them as healthy and nourishing as they are.

Organic vegetables from Kopeng

What consumers can do

  • Appreciate and value the work that farmers put into the food we buy and eat
  • Help to spread the idea of eating organic vegetables
  • Support organic farmers by buying from them directly
  • Bring your own containers and bags when you go shopping
  • Ask supermarkets to sell the organic food without all the plastic wrapping

Oh so healthy!

Mas Dhana started changing his diet and getting involved in organic agriculture when both of his parents died of diabetes. He realized that a healthy lifestyle begins with what you eat. Simply adding some organic vegetables to your otherwise unhealthy diet does not make you a healthy person. However, according to a study by Newcastle University (England), consuming organic vegetables, fruit and cereals leads to an increase in nutritionally desirable antioxidants, without an increased intake of calories, as well as a reduced intake of potentially harmful 8 cadmium and pesticides.

But it is more than that – the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides has bad effects on our health and causes severe environmental damage.

Plastic? No thanks!

The holistic concept of farming organically also comprises the reduction of waste. Mbak Septi and Mas Budi became very creative when looking for material in which they could grow and sell their plants. They use old bags or coconuts. Mas Ari tries to reduce the use of plastic as much as he can, but as the weather is not as reliable as it used to be, because of climate change, he has to use plastic sheets as roofs to protect his plants from UV rays.

Next to Mas Aris’s farm, six other organic farmers produce partly for big supermarkets, where organic vegetables wrapped in plastic and styrofoam are offered. This is actually contradictory to the principle of  living with nature, as plastic is non-degradable (cannot be composted) and should therefore not be thrown away after using it once. At Milas organic market, vendors use banana leaves to wrap their products. Consumers are also asked to bring their own containers and bags.

Yummy organic snacks, available at the organic market of your choice

Where to shop organic vegetables in Yogya?

Pasar Milas : Parking Area of Milas Resto, Jl. Karangkajen (Prawirotaman IV/ 127 B) Yogyakarta, Telepon 0851-0142-3399, open hours : 10am-1pm, only on Wednesday and Saturday.  Milas_jogja@yahoo.co.id.

Sasen organic market: every 1st Sunday of a month at 10am-1pm, with rotating positions:

1. Parakan Kulon, Sendangsari, Minggir Sleman / 2. Rumahmakan LegorosoNugroho, Brayut, Pandowoharjo, Sleman. / 3. Rumah Mas Tri/Betet, Penen, Hargibinangun, Pakem, Sleman 

Pasar Kamisan: Gandok, Jl. Kaliurang Km. 9,3, Sariharjo, Ngaglik, Sleman, Yogyakarta, open every Thursday at 10am-1pm. 

Pasar Demangan : Jl. Demangan Baru no. 9a, Caturtunggal, Depok, Sleman, Yogyakarta, open every Friday at 4pm-7pm. 

Pasar Siliran : Jalan Siliran Lor No. 6, Panembahan, Kraton, Kota Yogyakarta, open every Tuesday at 10am-1pm. 

Based On Trust

There are several systems to certify land as „organic“ in Indonesia. To receive such a certificate is quite costly. The farmers’ cooperative Mardi Santoso in Kopeng, which was certified organic by the Department of Agriculture, Crops and Horticulture in 2011, decided not to renew their certificate this year, as only 5 of the 50 farmers have continued farming organically and even the remaining ones have found it difficult to follow the regulations. „We decided to sell our vegetables as „healthy“, not as „organic“ anymore, says Pak Subari, one of the members of the cooperative.

As there is no product-based label marking vegetables as organic, consumers have to trust their farmers. So it is best to buy organic vegetables directly at the market, where the farmers can explain how they grew the product. Mbak Septi and Mas Budi know exactly what they are selling. „We know every single plant and treat each of them almost as our children“.

In Europe, labels for organic products were a milestone in the organic movement. Now organic products are sold nearly everywhere and control mechanisms make it easy to check on the producer’s credibility. But a label remains a tool. What is more important is the idea behind it: To keep the knowledge, and maintain the appreciation of nature. At local markets, you can talk to the farmers and let them explain to you, how they follow this concept, even if their land is not certified. It’s worth a try, isn’t it?

 Our next edition will be on waste and upcycling. If you are interested in collaborating or have an interesting topic for another edition of SEMAR (sustainable, ecofriendly, social), please let us know!