Residents from Babatan and Lontar villages in Surabaya, Indonesia, used to pile their garbage in unsightly mounds. Now they have found ways to deal with their food scraps, sewage and plastics, and are even making money from them.

A local civic group called Pusdakota taught them to separate the plastics, glass and paper from the organic waste. Shell engaged Pusdakota as a partner and worked with the Surabaya government to teach residents these techniques, in a programme called Shell for Environmental Preservation. Urban waste is a challenge to many Indonesian cities like Surabaya, the country’s second largest city, as their populations continue to grow. But their local governments are hard-pressed to invest in high-end waste technologies as budgets are tight. So low-cost solutions like Shell’s programme are welcomed, especially when residents get directly involved.

Pusdakota encouraged residents to sell some of the plastics and paper to a waste bank, called Bank Sampah, for commercial recycling. The money is used for community improvement projects. So far, the residents have raised US$154. A year from now, when the funds have grown, loans will be disbursed to residents who want to start small businesses.

Even the organic waste has been put to good use. Residents have been taught to turn food scraps and sewage into fertilizers with live bacteria. The process takes place in rotating barrels that have been installed across the villages. The residents use the fertilizer for their own crops, which they sell for a profit.

Mr Suhargiyo, a community leader, commended the programme for not only benefitting residents but also cleaning up their neighbourhood. “Residents have gained skills and are now motivated to make Bank Sampah self-sustaining,” he said.

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