>Villagers join hands to save the Earth Saturday

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June 12, 2004, Jakarta Post
By Bambang M, Contributor/Yogyakarta
Garbage has always been a problem, especially if it is not properly managed. Villagers in Sukunan hamlet, Sleman, are working on ways to manage their household garbage to save the environment.
One of the villagers, Iswanto, initiated an environmentally friendly waste-disposal scheme. His offer was welcomed, and nowadays his fellow villagers no longer dump garbage anyplace they please.
Iswanto’s idea was that every family in the village would sort their household litter into three categories; plastic, paper and iron/glass — each is disposed of in separate containers.
There are currently 18 points where these sets of three garbage bins are located in the village. The large drums are eye-catching as they are colorfully painted.
Unlike in many other neighborhoods, where residents usually pay a garbageman to collect their daily waste, in Sukunan, scavengers pay for the garbage pooled by the villagers.
“If the drums are full, a lapak (scavenger) picks them up, for which he pays a small price,” said Iswanto, adding that the money collected from the garbage sale was saved as the village’s cash.
“That’s why people are so enthusiastic about the program. Besides, the organic garbage is made into compost that they can use or sell,” said Iswanto, who is a lecturer at health academy Poltekes, in Yogyakarta.
The idea of sorting the garbage came after Iswanto met Lea Jellinek, the resident director of the Australian Consortium for In Country Indonesian Studies (ACICIS), at the latter’s home.
“I saw good garbage management at her house. I thought it could be applied in my village.”
Jellinek assisted — both technically and financially — to help Iswanto implement the program.
With the help of Jellinek’s students, the campus and an Australian donor, the program kicked off in April this year.
To prepare the garbage bins, they invited Apotik Komik, an association of cartoonists to help make the garbage drums beautiful.
However, the program was not the result of one night’s work. A kind of feasibility study was conducted, as well as socialization programs. The team used every possible forum or meeting held in the village to promote the new scheme.
And, once they agreed to implement the program, the villagers helped with the preparations.
“No one got paid for their work,” said Jellinek, adding that the project had encouraged cooperation among the villagers.
According to Iswanto, Sukunan villagers had been facing garbage-related problems for the past five years due to the increasing number of inhabitants in the village.
Currently some 180 families live in Sukunan.
“Farmers were complaining that garbage was piling up on their fields, especially plastic, causing their land to be infertile,” Iswanto recalled.
With the newly established program, people of Sukunan no longer burn their plastic garbage.
In fact, they are also able to create new jobs for unemployed youth. The locals transform used plastic or aluminum foil into attractive handbags — Iswanto’s wife initiated the business.
“It’s a good effort, but we need time to prove that the program really works,” Bobi Setiawan of Gadjah Mada University’s Center for Environmental Studies (PSLH) commented.
Appreciation was also expressed by other community groups, including that of a housing complex in Sidoarum and a village in Temple — both in Sleman — which plan to apply the program.
Only time will tell whether the scheme is a success, but one thing is for sure, Sukunan village has taken a big step forward.
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