Jan 17, 2018 Last Updated 3:31 AM, Jan 6, 2018

Recycling in Sukunan

Lea Jellinek

Sukunan, a kampung (village) on the outskirts of Yogyakarta, did not have a government rubbish collection service. Every household disposed of its own rubbish. Most buried, burned or threw it in the irrigation canals. The farmers complained because plastic clogged up their paddy fields, reducing rice yields. During the past ten years the village had become densely settled and there was no place for rubbish.

Iswanto, a Sukunan resident, environmental health scientist and educator, visited our home at ACICIS and observed our household waste management. In his small home, with no land for a garden, he experimented with separating paper, plastic and kitchen refuse and making compost. Soon his neighbours started to follow his example and the process spread throughout his neighbourhood. As far as we know, this separation of rubbish in kampung kitchens — and an entire community involved in recycling — is the first program of its type in Yogya or anywhere else in Indonesia. Staff and students from ACICIS (Australian Consortium for In-Country Indonesian Studies) have lent a helping hand. By being involved, our Australian students have experienced a good community development program and learnt valuable lessons working alongside villagers.

The project

A donor from Melbourne made it possible for Sukunan to buy 50 used 44 gallon drums which were cleaned, welded with lids and feet and painted by Sukunan’s teenagers. A group of Yogya street artists (Apotik Komik) gave a workshop on how to mix and apply paint. Lined up, the 50 drums looked like an art show. Mothers pointed with pride to the drums their children had painted. Prizes were given for the most artistic drums. Teenagers organised a relay race to help the youngest children learn how to separate rubbish. Those participating also received prizes and certificates.

The community decided where the drums would be placed so that they were convenient to each household. Three drums (Glass and Metal, Paper, and Plastic) served 12 houses. All of the work was done voluntarily and the community was proud of its achievements. Two second-hand sewing machines were bought so that the women could sew handbags out of recycled cappuccino sachets.

Gathering momentum

In less than one year, the program has reached 800 people. Nine formerly unemployed young men are working in cottage industries related to the making of drums and recycling of rubbish. A recycler comes regularly to collect, weigh and buy the separated rubbish.

Over the past two months, the community has earned Rp 800,000 (A$125) from the sale of rubbish bins, clay composting containers and the recycled rubbish — especially black plastic bags, which are in great demand by recycling industries in Solo, Surabaya and Jakarta. The compost made by the community is selling well and the community cannot keep up with demand. Handbags are also selling well.

Many visitors both from other communities and local government are coming to the community to learn how to recycle and compost. Women from Sukunan are going out as extension workers to neighbouring villages to educate others about the process of separatiýg rubbish. Sukunan has been put forward by local government to compete for a prize in community self-help and environmental/health management. The villagers have learnt to view rubbish as a resource which can be managed rather than carelessly discarded, and at the same time recycling is helping to reduce ground, water and air pollution.

This rubbish recycling and environmental health program in Yogya has everything going for it: bottom-up planning and design with committed, dynamic and capable leadership, good management, cautious use of funds, self-monitoring and documentation of all funds spent. Lots of local people have been prepared to volunteer their efforts. Now other villages and local government want to learn from Sukunan’s example. The project has donors. What we don’t have is an Australian tax-deductible channel by which to get money to the project. Can anybody help?

Lea Jellinek (ojell@lexicon.net) along with her partner Ed Kiefer, were Resident Directors of the ACICIS program from June 2003 to June 2004.

Inside Indonesia 80: Oct - Dec 2004

Latest Articles

Review: Identity and pleasure, on screen

Jan 06, 2018 - FADJAR I THUFAIL

Source: Cinema Poetica

Identity and Pleasure: The Politics of Indonesian Screen Culture invites us to embark on a visual journey of difficult episodes in Indonesian history

Essay: Masked but not hidden

Dec 04, 2017 - DUNCAN GRAHAM

Credit: Erlinawati Graham

A small museum in Java is preserving a storytelling tradition, and the thoughts and feelings behind it

Essay: Getting to know you through a pendopo

Nov 13, 2017 - DUNCAN GRAHAM

A look at the journey and contribution of a longtime Australian teacher and researcher of Indonesian Studies

When a history seminar becomes toxic

Nov 02, 2017 - SASKIA E WIERINGA

Attacks on a meeting of survivors of 1965 and their supporters at the offices of the Legal Aid Institute in Jakarta in September 2017 do not bode well for human...

Facing history


Credit: http://www.tribunal1965.org

A witness account of the 2015 International People’s Tribunal on 1965

Subscribe to Inside Indonesia

Receive Inside Indonesia's latest articles and quarterly editions in your inbox.


Lontar Modern Indonesia



A selection of stories from the Indonesian classics and modern writers, periodically published free for Inside Indonesia readers, courtesy of Lontar

Readers said:

  • Marriage denied
    Sayed - 30 Nov
    I am from Pakistan and living in Indonesia and I am refugee here. I have been here a long time for 5 years but still I did not get any answer from ...
  • When a history seminar becomes toxic
    Duncan Graham - 12 Nov
    Thanks for this detailed account - most reports have been superficial. The politics have been done well, but what about the people? I would have ...
  • When a history seminar becomes toxic
    Jose - 11 Nov
    Inciting violence is a purpose in itself - violence begets more violence. Turning a peaceful event into a violent confrontation serves its own purpose ...
  • Mining – who benefits?
    uhaibm@yahoo.com - 04 Nov
    This paper has been inspired in relation to the exploitation of natural resources, specifically the coal mining industry. I am doing some research ...

30th Anniversary Book

Inside Indonesia - 30th Anniversary Photo Book


Have you bought your copy of Inside Indonesia's 30th Anniversary book yet?

The book features 30 of the judges' favourite images from the 2013 Inside Indonesia Photography Competition.

Preview the book  and order your copy online (Soft cover approx AUD$23.00 / Hard cover approx AUD$35.00).