Medang Island is home to several thousand inhabitants. Plastic pollution is rife, plastic waste constantly washes onto the island beaches from the Bali Sea. Plastic waste generated by the villagers themselves aggravates the problem.
Traditionally most waste went into the ocean. The sea took it away and since most was organic this caused no problems. But society changed. Now everything you buy is in plastic packaging. Even drinking water comes in small one-way plastic cups.
To address this situation teachers and community leaders on the island initiated Medang 4 Change. The movement began by organizing villagers and students for community clean-up campaigns. The success led to a new problem. What to do with the Plastic collected?
Pyrolysis, an innovative process using heat to convert plastic rubbish into useable fuel, offered promise. On their own initiative, Medang4Change ran a successful Go Fund Me campaign to purchase such a machine from a professor in Indonesia. Highly animated by the prospect of converting plastic waste to fuel the islands boat-motors or generators, the villagers build a shed to house it.
The machine works. But the cost of LPG required to operate it is the same as the fuel it produces. The only way to make the machine sustainable is with a renewable energy source such as solar or wind. Perhaps the approach of “technology will save us” is not the answer.
Medang4change now has two buildings, one for the machine itself and one for storing and shredding plastic, as well as three pits for storing separated plastic. “It’s a huge learning curve for us at the moment”, said Mohammad Amir from Medang4change.
“And, we still need a solution for what to do with the plastic.”
The current thinking is to collect plastic, clean and sort it into categories, shred and package it, then sell it to Sumbawa for recycling. Transport by boat is not cheap but for now, this is the only self-sustaining way to dispose of plastic waste.