Tag Archives: rubbish

Producing Durable Pallets from Recycled Plastic Waste

Bali (and Indonesia) has received a lot of negative press in recent years with regards to plastic litter. This issue, we meet with PT Enviro Pallets, a manufacturer of nestled pallets made entirely from recycled plastic waste which would otherwise have ended up in landfills. We meet General Manager, Lars Armstrup, to find out more about where the innovative company sources their plastic waste, the manufacturing process, and the their environmentally-conscious values. 

Enviro Pallets was founded by Matthew Darby in New Zealand – when and for what reason was the plastic recycling plant opened in Bali?

We started in 2012, moving the equipment across from the previous factory in Christchurch, New Zealand.  In visits to Indonesia, Matthew saw a very significant plastic waste issue across the nation, and discussions with the National Investment Agency highlighted the added issues surrounding this in Bali. A strong local desire for solutions to help tackle the plastic waste problem, and to keep Bali Clean, ultimately led to the decision to set up our first Asian factory here.

What excited you about coming onboard?

Having worked for 30 years in logistics and industrial manufacturing in six different Asian countries, I am intimately aware of the challenges around raw-material requirements to keep supply chains moving, specifically the high demand for timber to produce pallets for the movement of finished products.

Global estimates state that more than 40 percent of the world’s sawn timber is used to produce wood pallets. Our unique Thermo Fusion™ technology allows us to use the recycled plastics others do not want, thus benefitting from a low raw-material cost, making our plastic pallets directly competitive with wood pallets, at the same price.

We truly believe we will introduce a real alternative to the use of wood, and the infinite re-use of plastics over and over again. Not only do we use 100 percent recycled plastic, but our products are also themselves 100 percent recyclable, enabling us to use the same plastic raw material multiple times.

Can you give us a brief explanation of the Thermo Fusion™ production process?

We take mixed plastics, shred it and subsequently subject it to heat and pressure, mechanically binding the polymers of the different types of plastics. This results in a malleable plastic substance that under very high pressure is formed into the finished product of a pallet.

The uniqueness of our equipment is that we are able to use mixed plastics of all types in one combined process. This is different to what normally happens in the recycling of plastics. Normally, polymers must be segregated, to for example only contain PET or only HDPE, which is then converted to granules and mixed with virgin plastics for injection moulding processes.

 Plastic at PT Enviro PalletsHow many tonnes of plastic do you process a day?

We just started our second production line, and with that we can now process more than 600 MTS of plastic per month – most of which would have gone to landfills.

How do you collect the plastic waste used to make your pallets?

We work with recyclers in Bali, who supply steady volumes of plastic to us. We have recently established programmes with the Bali Government’s departments of Sanitation, Gardening and the Environment, allowing us to work directly with the island’s nine regencies and their sub-districts. Two of these are now our active suppliers of recycled plastics, and we continue to engage with the remaining, expecting to have covered all during 2016. Supplies also come from schools and brand retail shops, where we engage with them on campus and in-store to facilitate their efforts to reduce, reuse and recycle.

How much do you pay per kilogram of plastic waste that people bring to you?

First of all, we want clean and dry plastic. Clean means free from non-plastic material such as cardboard, paper, glass, aluminium foil, etc. We can deal with varying degrees of these in the process, but we run the most efficient when these are not present. But for the plastic types themselves we do not distinguish between the different kinds of polymers, as we readily mix them all together in our process.

Our pricing starts at Rp.1,200 per kg of plastic and increases with the cleanliness and dryness of plastic that we receive. Being willing to pay for something that people normally throw away is having a positive impact in the communities that we work with.

 Besides the fact that they’re created from plastic waste, what else makes your pallets special?

There are literally hundreds of different pallet sizes and functionalities in use around the world – our process allows us to produce all of them. Plastic is stronger than wood, and therefore gives a better performance over time compared to wood. Even though our pallets will eventually break, the difference with wood is that a damaged wooden pallet has very limited use at the end of its short life. Wood pallets are either burnt (for energy), grinded up (for mulching purposes), or in the vast majority of cases disposed of to rot. Because our process uses 100 percent recycled plastic, we simply take back the damaged pallets, grind them up and run them through our production process again, to be reborn as new pallets.

Please tell us about your expansion plans, especially to Indonesia’s capital, Jakarta.

We have significant ambitions both on a national and global basis. We do expect to expand into Java and beyond in the very near future.

Bye Bye Plastic Bags have been given a MoU by the provincial government in Bali to stop giving away free plastic bags in 2016 and ban plastic bags altogether by 2018. How will this affect production at your plant?

Melati and Isabel, who founded Bye Bye Plastic Bags, are such an inspiration – amazing girls. I met with them recently and banning plastic bags is definitely the way to go. I believe other cities around Indonesia are working on similar schemes. Unfortunately, the global production of plastic continues to rise at about four percent annually, and the sad fact is that even if all plastic bags were banned, it would still only make a small reduction in the total plastic output. There is so much new plastic being made every day.

We cannot function as a world without plastic, but through what we do, we believe we help to move us to a point of ‘no new plastic being put into the world’, as we can infinitely recycle the same plastics again and again, even though they are all mixed.

Lars Armstrup, General Manager of PT Enviro Pallets, Bali
Lars Armstrup, General Manager of PT Enviro Pallets, Bali

As the General Manager of a business that actively contributes towards a cleaner world, you must be extremely passionate about what you do. What work ethics that you hold dear to your heart would you like to see other business owners embody?

I love what we do. Few people are given the opportunity to head up an enterprise that truly holds the potential to change a segment of the world, and in this respect our team and I are very fortunate. I am not sure that I am necessarily any different from other business leaders, however I am fuelled by passion – because I believe that is the only way to achieve excellence.

My work ethics are a real sense of purpose, strong determination and focus, which allow you to work through the unavoidable challenges and road blocks that are always present in business. Ultimately though, ‘Deliver The Promise’. What we promise to our customers, all my colleagues, our suppliers and communities is vital, as that is the only way in which we can achieve long-term sustainability both on the environmental front and for ourselves as a business.

Thank you, Lars. To get in touch, email:  marketing@enviropallets.com

The School on a Landfill

The province of DKI Jakarta (Daerah Khusus Ibukota, not including Bogor, Tangerang, Depok and Bekasi) has a population of over 9.6 million (2010), each individual of which produces waste. Shockingly for a city of its size, there is no solid waste management plan in place, and recycling is left in the hands of a few non-governmental organizations and the pemulung (rubbish pickers), who work hard to sort through millions of people’s mixed rubbish before it’s taken to a landfill. An estimated 6,000 tonnes of rubbish is produced a day in Jakarta, 2,000 of which is thought to end up in the rivers, causing flooding and diseases.

Rubbish collected in the province of DKI Jakarta all ends up at the largest landfill of Indonesia – Bantar Gebang. This massive 111-hectare rubbish tip is more than meets the eye, as it homes 5,000 inhabitants who live and work here as scavengers, including a pre-school and a primary school, where the children of the scavengers come to get an education.

The first thing you notice when getting close to Bantar Gebang is the smell. It is a stench like no other, and the closer you get to the mountain of rubbish, the stronger it stings your nostrils and the back of your throat. It is a smell I will never forget. Driving into the vicinity, you are met with a shanty town built right on top of and amongst the rubbish and flies number in the thousands.

Rubbish at Bantar Gebang

Arriving at the primary school on Bantar Gebang, Yayasan Dinamika Indonesia, we are greeted by children running around, playing and screaming on their morning break. It’s like arriving at any other school, except this school is surrounded by rubbish, and the odd pemulung rummages through trash left in the shrubs on the school grounds as the kids play. Here we meet Nasrudin, Head of YDI, who explains the story of his school to us, which has been in operation since 1996.

“There are 362 children at this primary school and 52 at the pre-school down the road,” Nasrudin tells us. “We have an open door policy with flexible rules to try and keep children in class. We will even let them sleep if they need to.” Nasrudin has been at YDI since it opened and knows more about the children of Bantar Gebang than anyone else.

Beautiful children at Yayasan Dinamika Indonesia, the school on Bantar Gebang
Beautiful children at Yayasan Dinamika Indonesia, the school on Bantar Gebang

After visiting the classrooms, it is interesting to see that these children are quite introvert, not like street children, who are oftentimes boisterous. The children of Bantar Gebang are well-behaved and many have dreams of becoming something other than a scavenger. Many of the children I spoke to wanted to be a teacher, a policeman or even a football player. The sad reality is that most end up working on the landfill or in factories nearby.

Aspirations of the children at YDI, Bantar Gebang, include policeman, football player and doctor
Aspirations of the children at YDI, Bantar Gebang, include policeman, football player and doctor

“Once the children know how to read and write, they often want to leave and start earning money for themselves doing what their parents do,” Nasrudin explains. “90% of the crane drivers on the landfill are YDI alumni and we also have many grandchildren of alumni attending.” This truth becomes evident when looking at how the number of students goes down as the grade number goes up: Grade 1 (69 students), Grade 2 (79 students), Grade 3 (54 students), Grade 4 (59 students), Grade 5 (41 students) and Grade 6 (27 students).

Pemulung who live and work on Bantar Gebang predominantly come from Indramayu in Cirebon, with a minority from Madura and Karawang. The pemulung mostly work directly for the pengepul, someone who acts as a middle man and buys the rubbish from them at a cheap price, selling onto their bosses, who then send the recyclable items on to recycling factories. There is a monopoly system at play here, whereby the pengepul give the pemulung loans in order to keep them under their thumbs, forever indebted to them. On this landfill, the pemulung work five days a week, wading through mountains of mixed waste in search of recyclable items, with two days left to sort through what they’ve collected, earning between Rp.150,000 to Rp.200,000 a week. The children usually help with the cutting up of plastic and sorting of collected rubbish after school hours.

“Many of the children have skin irritations, and they all have cacingan (worms),” Nasrudin tells me. Anemia is also another common illness these children face, although surprisingly, the number of dengue fever cases is very rare and there have been no reported cases of tuberculosis. Living on a landfill is extremely unsanitary and dangerous, and four pemulung lost their lives recently to a landslide of rubbish. When touring the landfill, I was saddened to see men, women and children working in such terrible conditions, completely oblivious to the foul smell or rotting garbage they have become accustomed to.

Nasrudin and some of the children of YDI

“The children find it hard to make it into state schools after they leave us,” Nasrudin says. “There is a certain stigma which is attached to children of Bantar Gebang.” It is wonderful to hear from Nasrudin that a few of his students have gone on to working at big companies such as Panasonic after completing a university degree, thanks to Yayasan Dinamika Indonesia. Oman, one of the alumni of YDI, even came back after studying Mathematics at STKIP Kusumanegara, to teach the children at a place which gave him hope for the future.

YDI now receives financial support from the government under Biaya Operasi Sekolah, which helps to pay for their operational costs, however they are currently looking for sponsors to help pay for teacher’s fees, as the funds they receive do not cover this.

If you are interested to sponsor this extraordinary school, or volunteer your time to teach English or Mathematics to the children of the pemulung, please contact Nasrudin at +62 (0)8129848401.

First published in Indonesia Expat, February 2014

Clean Up Jakarta Day 2015 Official Video

On Sunday, October 16th 2015, Jakarta’s citizens carried out the Indonesian tradition of gotong royong by picking up rubbish and cleaning up Jakarta together in ‘Clean Up Jakarta Day 2015’. The aim of the clean-up is to educate people about the detrimental effects of littering, and in turn spark an awareness of the importance of recycling.

This campaign was carried out by volunteers, of which there were 10,000+ this year, picking up rubbish, separating into recyclable and non-recyclable sacks as they cleaned. All clean-up activities commenced at 7am at 37 sites throughout the city. These sites were nominated by volunteers and approved by the Clean Up Jakarta Day team.

Clean Up Jakarta Day is an annual event which acts as a platform for existing communities, schools, companies and organizations to join together on one day with one united voice against littering. Ambassadors this year included business magnate Sandiaga Uno, actress and TV anchor Marissa Anita and actor and TV host Mike Lewis, as well as Governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama (Ahok) and Dinas Kebersihan Kota Jakarta supporting the event.

Rubbish collected was separated into bags of recyclable and non-recyclable materials, and the recyclables were taken by Dinas Kebersihan DKI Jakarta to the city’s waste banks.

Clean Up Jakarta Day is an annual event I founded and I would like to thank all of the Clean Up Heroes for taking part and raising awareness of Jakarta’s rubbish problem, as well as cleaning up the city together.

Please visit www.cleanupjakartaday.org for more information.

Thank you to everyone who helped make this day possible!