Interviews

Impact In Numbers

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Impact Interview is our initiative where we explore the stories of changemakers and the initiatives they have developed to support sustainable development in Indonesia. This time, we are joined by Hermitianta Prasetya (Mas Mimit), Community Relations Manager at Merah Putih Hijau Bali.

Can you give us a brief introduction about  your organization and what problem is it that you're trying to solve?

In 2016, Merah Putih Hijau started out as an initiative doing environmental clean-ups and community education in the villages in Bali.
In 2017, our founder Sean Nino with the MPH team established the Yayasan Bumi Sasmaya as the parent organization of the program Merah Putih Hijau.
The philosophy behind Merah Putih Hijau is that Merah Putih stands for our national flags, red and white, and it means that we operate as local initiatives in Indonesia using the local approach and local wisdom as the contextualisation. Then the hijau means the sustainability, the green purpose, and the environmental perspectives – so Merah Putih Hijau is about how we march towards sustainability using the local approach.
Previously, the waste management system was centralized in the landfills where the habit is from the household, we collect the waste and then we transport it directly to the landfills to then dump it. This results in almost every landfill in Indonesia being close to reaching overcapacity. To solve this waste crisis, we try to decentralize the waste management system into the village level.
Up to 2023, we have assisted 21 villages mostly in Gianyar regency in implementing sustainable waste management practices. We have also conducted pilot projects to integrate this waste management solution with organic agriculture initiatives, where we worked with 26 farmers in the villages to transition from chemical fertilizers to organic compost from the facility’s processing – and we expect this number to keep on growing.
We also provided 125 job opportunities across our waste management facilities across our village networks, and worked together with 300+ women volunteers to perform the waste management education in the communities.
In terms of the waste we process in our facilities – every year, we manage around 500 tons of organic waste material and 300 tons of inorganic materials in the village. Through these efforts, this has resulted in the reduction of carbon emission equivalent of up to 700 tons per year.

We are currently in one of your waste management facilities in Desa Pejeng, can you tell us more about this facility and what the day-to-day of this facility looks like?

The Pejeng facility has existed since 2019, and we initially started with the goal of improving the waste management system in Pejeng Village.
At first, we teach the women cadres volunteers here how to effectively compost the organic materials. We also introduce the force aeration system to blow air into the compost to fasten up the composting process.
The Pejeng Village has become one of our pilot projects on source-based waste management systems. Here in Pejeng Village, the households must separate their waste into three types: the organic materials, the inorganic materials and also the residual waste.
This is our very important first principal here in MPH, that separation of waste all the way from the source is the key.
By separating the waste, it increases the effectiveness and efficiency of the waste management system. We have the scheduled transportation to pick up the waste from the households to the waste management facilities. Each waste type has their unique individual pick-up schedule.
With the organic materials already separated in the households, the transportation staff drives trucks around the village to pick up the waste and bring it to the waste management facilities. In the facility, we do further sorting to remove the scraps of plastics and other materials that contaminated the organic material.
We then shred the sorted organic waste into smaller pieces and we arrange them into row of piles. Under every pile we blow air to provide better circulation for the compost.
After the composting process for two months, we sieve the compost to produce smoother extracts and then the compost is ready to be sold. We bag it and the buyers came here to buy the compost in bag of 10kg.
Here in MPH we try to solve the waste crisis systematically – so by doing the education from the households, we also integrate it with the transportation systems, and with management facilities improvement.

Beyond just waste-reduction benefit, what other ways is this initiative supporting the villagers and local community?

In a circular economy scheme, we aim to connect the local economics activities with the waste management activities, so we collaborate with the village government to adopt the waste management integration program with the organic agriculture program.
The village government supports this scheme by becoming the customers of the waste management facilities, buying the compost and donating it to the organic agriculture program.
Farmers receive the compost donated by the village government to initiate their eco-friendly agriculture efforts.
With the use of organic compost, the farmers reduce the use of chemical fertilizers and by adopting this waste management integration program with organic agriculture the government is starting to shift the subsidies from the chemical fertilizer subsidies into organic fertilizer subsidies.
Here in Pejeng, we initially piloted the program with six farmers, now we are working with eight farmers cultivating one and a half hectares of land using the compost from the facilities.
MPH Circular Economy Scheme

Education is a big part of the circular economy activities. When you started out, what were the challenges?

The biggest challenge was the lack of systematic support and integration of the waste management initiatives. Think about educating household to separate waste but having waste mixed up again during trasnportation. Without the whole system operating properly, our initiative predictably will collapse in the short future.
By using Merah Putih Hijau’s approach, which has the circular economy approach, it has a holistic mechanism to support these initiatives for waste management systems. If all the initiatives can connect and support each other, it creates sustainability.

How do you convince villagers initially to adopt such practice? Especially when they haven't felt the benefit of the end product (for instance the compost)

At first, it is hard to transfer such complex knowledge. In Merah Putih Hijau we use the local wisdom – we integrate the Tri Hita Karana philosophies to the education activities.
The villagers needs to know that their waste management activities is related with their belief of the Tri Hita Karana.
By separating the waste they also help the environment. We also encourage the villagers to reduce the use of plastics in their offerings of their daily ceremony to better be connected with God.
With the Tri Hita Karana introduced in the waste management education, it helps for the villagers to better understand the reason why they should separate the waste from the households.

There's a lot of trial and error in implementing your waste management improvement project. Do you have a knowledge base that documents your learnings?

Documenting of knowledge in our village networks has actually been quite challenging because with different villages, we have different context and experience. We are assisting 21 villages here in Bali, so within that context alone, we already have 21 different cases.
We are currently in discussion with academics at the Warmadewa University, with a plan to create a collaborative research about behavior change in waste management this year.
We try to collect grassroot knowledge from the communities and we hope we can create a module, to be used as curriculum for our upcoming program, the School of Eco-Champion.
With the School of Eco-Champion, we plan to train “eco-champions” to act as MPH staff in the villages so they can gather data and information to support the waste management system development in their assigned villages. They will be responsible to apprach the village government, they can also teach the management facility staff and perform door-to-door education.
With this initiative, we aim to multiply the scale of the environmental movement in the villages, especially for the waste management activities. Hopefully with this multiplying waste management movement in Bali, we can solve the waste crisis. 

Our goal is to try to reduce the waste sent to the landfill by up to 80% and by doing this we can prevent the landfills from reaching over capacity.

Before we go to the School of Eco Champions, you mentioned how the approach across different villages is different. What’s a concrete example of this? For example, how is Pejeng different from other villages?

We have our seven steps of waste management development in the villages which serves as our generic framework.
But in practice with the villages, we need to contextualize the local conditions. For instance, the commitment when it comes to waste management initative is different across different village leaders.
Some of the head of the villages already fully committed, and they even allocated (part of) the village budget to support the operation of waste management facilities,
But for some, the verbal commitment is contradictory with their political decisions. We hear local leaders still supporting mixed waste transportation, where in such case we need to approach and engage in discussion with local leaders.
Another example is when the Temesi landfill of the Gianyar regency was temporarily closed, there were different policies created by the local village governments on how to handle the waste situation in their respective villages.
Some have decided to store their waste, some are dumping their waste – it’s a different approach in every village. Ensuring actual support for the commitment made by the head of the village government is one of the challenges in our Village Assisted programs.

Let's talk about the School of Eco Champions. There's a lot of programs about waste management education already out there. Do you think there's still a gap in the current waste management education?

Actually waste management education can be found abundantly everywhere. But what we feel is that most of the education materials lack local context.
So we decided to develop the School of Eco-Champion to provide a better understanding of the local context of waste management. By knowing this case-by-case scenarios in our partner villages, we try to disseminate the knowledge from the grassroots for the learning process to the eco-champions that we trained.
Initially, we developed this School of Eco Champion because we understand that our waste management education failed. It fails because the education activity doesn’t look at it from a holistic operational perspective.

Who can be an eco-champion? Is there an age range or a requirement that they have to have knowledge in waste management prior?

Actually, the youth and the woman group is our main target audience for the school of eco champions, because from our experience, these groups are the ones mostly committed to the social and environment purposes.
These group also have been our active supporters in our current partner villages.
Combined with the commitment of the local leaders, we hope that we can ensure the continuation of the waste management educationm even after the Merah Putih Hijau program is done in the villages.Our program is only temporary, so we need the villagers to continue the waste management movement in their respective villages.

How can people support the cause that you're doing?

We try to accommodate any initiative that come our way.
Mostly, we rely upon donation from people – you can donate through our website, there are links to it. We are also open to collaborate with other projects, companies via corporate social responsibility programs and international NGOs with the same purpose on the waste management project.
We are also open for volunteer activities – you can find the announcement in our websites or in our social media. Last time, we do the door-to-door education. Next time we have the environmental clean up activities, everyone’s also welcome.

What are some important messages that you personally want to share to anyone that's reading this, regarding this waste issue?

We hope that the communities can spread the words of the waste management initiatives and perform the simplest way of waste management activities – which is by separating the waste from the households from the source.

Because everyone of us is producing waste, it is our responsibility to manage our waste.

We encourage all of you to do the simplest way to participate in the waste management systems as part of our responsibility.

How can people learn more about Merah Putih Hijau your initiatives?

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