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  • Writer's pictureIHS Alumni

(Let’s Not Only) Celebrate This Indonesian Solid Waste Management Day

Twelve years ago, on 21 February 2005, a landslide disaster occurred in one of the open-dumping disposal sites in Cimahi City, West Java Province, Indonesia. A 60 meter high solid waste embankment in Leuwigajah swept two villages due to heavy rain and high methane gas pressures. Hundreds of people died.

From then, every 21 February, the Indonesian government and the citizens “celebrate” this day by paying closer attention to solid waste management (SWM) practices. An ambitious target was made: there should be no waste in Indonesian cities by 2020. Is it possible?

SWM Law Number 18/2008 has mandated that all open-dumping disposal sites should be shifted to sanitary and controlled landfill by 2013. But then, a report from the Ministry of Environment and Forestry (2016) was shocking! From 355 disposal sites all over Indonesia, 160 are still using open dumping practice. This shows that open dumping is still the most prevalent method of waste disposal.

A number of projects and policies have been implemented, developing regional disposal sites, intermediate treatment facility (ITF), “reduce-reuse-recycle” policy and the recently failed “paid plastic bag” policy. Those measures were meant to minimize waste volume at the disposal, but no impact is felt nonetheless. Even worse, a man died in Bantar Gebang disposal site in Bekasi City West Java Province, due to landslides at the beginning of this year. Thus, how can cities properly manage their solid waste? How do they deal with 200,000 tonnes of solid waste per day?

Despite the recently abolished Presidential Decree Number 18/2016 on waste to energy (WTE), a proper solution should be made. Looking closely at the physical aspects/infrastructure does not necessarily end this problem. Increased population would obviously increase consumption; thus, more waste is produced. Consistency to implement “reduce-reuse-recycle” and “paid plastic bag” policy combined with developing sanitary landfill and ITF, empowering local community to produce more valuable goods from waste and encouraging city inhabitants to spend and shop wisely should therefore be in place.

But these won’t be enough! It is critical that in the long run for the government to carry out research and development to ensure that environmental impacts of WTE are carefully managed (see Mendes,, 2003; Seltenrich, 2013, Tan,, 2014). Similarly, it is essential to develop tight testing procedure particularly for Dioxins and Furans as persistent organic pollutants and to prepare guidelines for delivering the WTE project to cities.

Indonesian cities are now facing tremendous urbanisation, increased consumption and waste, as well as declining (environmental) carrying capacity. Dealing with solid waste requires comprehensive approaches; we need not only the low and ubiquitous technologies, but also a spectacular improvement. The National SWM Day can no longer be seen as a one-day event “celebration”. Urban managers, scientists, environmentalists, and civil society at large should work hand-in-hand to achieve the 2020 target. I truly believe those steps should make progressive outcome for better quality living in Indonesian cities.


About the author:

Adji Krisbandono (UMD-6) graduated in 2010 at IHS with a specialisation on Managing Urban Governance for Sustainable Development. He works as supervisor on policy studies at the Institute of Policy Studies, the Ministry of Public Works and Housing of Indonesia. He is now preparing several policy recommendations related to public private partnership in infrastructure development and management, accelerating economic growth in border cities, mitigating socio-economic impacts of Jakarta giant sea wall, and anticipating new urban sprawls in Indonesia eastern cities.


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