Local businesses get help kicking their plastic habit

Organizations willing to reduce plastic are praised on PlastikDetox’s website and Facebook page and also featured on a map of Bali highlighting eco-friendly establishments. Image: Facebook.com/plastikdetox

The resort island of Bali produces 890 metric tons of garbage every day. Imagine five blue whales or 222 elephants of pure trash washing up on the shores of Bali every 24 hours.

But rather than throw up their hands in defeat, a group of four die-hard environmentalists based in Sanur, 30 minutes from Ngurai Rai International Airport, banded together in 2012 and launched PlastikDetox, an educational effort to turn the tide on the island’s excessive use of plastic, which accounts for 10 percent to 12 percent of Bali’s trash.

To critics, the campaign might seem like a drop in the ocean. But PlastikDetox is determined all those drops will add up.

Adopting a warm and personal approach, Anna Sutanto along with the other co-founders of PlastikDetox, visit cafes and small businesses to propose that owners and managers take into consideration the amount of plastic they use and encourage them to adopt an environmentally conscious practice.

“Our biggest victory is when we see a ‘new normal’ taking hold,” says Anna. “[That means] more responsible, environment-friendly habits such as not automatically placing orders in single-use plastic bags, only giving customers straws when they [ask for them], and so on.”

There are plenty of encouraging statistics, she says, “Like Peek-a-Boo Play cafe saved 158 straws in a month, or the Fair Trade Shop, which saved 41 plastic bags in a month.”

“Now, multiply that by the number of businesses in Sanur, and multiply it again by the number of months, and we get quite a big figure. You need to attack the problem in parts and start with the easy changes,” Anna says.

The PlastikDetox campaign, which includes cafes, restaurants, a fair-trade shop and a laundry service in the area of Sanur, is very simple. Organizations willing to reduce plastic are praised on PlastikDetox’s website and Facebook page and also featured on a map of Bali highlighting eco-friendly establishments.

“We provide free training and technical support to businesses whose owners or managers are committed to reducing their use of plastic,” Anna says. “When these businesses succeed, we try to reward them through placement opportunities in local media so they get exposure for their efforts.”

PlastikDetox’s comprehensive training program provides educational material for both staff and customers.

“Our campaign is not only about putting stickers with our logo on a shop window,” Anna says. “Every year we evaluate our partners to see their progress. Sometimes there are hiccups, and in a couple of cases we have had to terminate the partnership when a partner was not following up on the agreed commitments. At the end of the day, we need to see results.”

Nadine Zamira, Miss Indonesia Earth 2009, agrees with PlastikDetox’s step-by-step approach, saying the personal touch of the campaign gives it a charming community-based approach.

“PlastikDetox is very relevant in Bali,” she says. “The island is full of small shops, cafes and restaurants.”

PlastikDetox doesn’t advocate for a 100 percent plastic-free way of life and Anna says it’s just raising awareness about cutting needless plastic use. The idea now is to scale up the Sanur campaign in bigger cities like Jakarta.

Tiza Mafira, who initiated a petition on Change.org this year to pressure Indonesia’s leading supermarkets to charge a small fee for plastic bags, says Jakarta is a tougher market to tackle but is confident that the time is right for change.

“Jakarta is bigger than Bali in size and complexity,” Tiza says.

“On the plus side, there will be more targets to convert… The network of volunteers for approaching retail outlets and implementing plastic detox training will need to be wider.”

Campaigners for a similar cause in the capital, Clean Up Jakarta Day, who will be doing their part on Nov. 10 to tackle the waste problem, say “there’s always hope” that ground movement like PlastikDetox can gain wider traction.

“Jakarta is filled with thousands of small businesses, which, if shown the way, would jump at the opportunity to stop using plastic bags and promote their company as a more eco-friendly business to the rest of the city,” says Angela Richardson, the Clean Up Jakarta Day organizer.

“PlastikDetox requires the business to do nothing but stop giving, or start charging for plastic bags, placing a sticker on their premises to showcase this, and in return get promoted to the media as a company who cares. Jakartans are hungry for a way to make a change.”

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