Waste that Transforming

The fact that waste is one of the environmental issues we face in the world, including Indonesia, is very concerning. The more the population, the more harm created by the waste. It is yet to be proven, but the waste bank could be one of the ways out of this problem. Besides, not only an answer to the waste issue but a waste bank may be one of the practices of the circular economy. Simply put, organizing a waste bank brings stability into the community's living environment as well as income and changing behavior.

The waste bank might not be an exciting issue to the people living in the decent area with a proper place to dispose of household waste, which is being taken regularly by the patrol in charge. However, what for us is not can be something that transforms someone’s life. It was in 2016, about 5 mothers living in Kelurahan Belawan II, a suburban village near the port of Belawan, Medan, attended a waste bank workshop held by the main garbage bank. They came to attend the workshop because they are the mothers of Gugah Nurani Indonesia (hereinafter, GNI) sponsored children. It is common for them to be actively involved in any GNI activity.

It was never thought that day would transform their life. Soon after they attended the workshop, they were challenged to initiate the establishment of a waste bank in Kelurahan Belawan II. It was not because they were desperate for money, but more because they wanted to free their living condition from waste. Living in Kelurahan Belawan II, surrounded by waste especially during the tidal wave, is very common for the community.

The waste pollutes the water then gets into people’s houses. Suffering from skin disease is something that regularly happened in the community. However, those 5 mothers, who had been actively involved in GNI’s program such as seminars, workshops, and training, became more aware of the unhealthy condition. They dream that the waste bank could bring changes. They realized, it should be started at that time, if not for them then the dreams would be far to reach.

That was how the 5 mothers became the founders of Berkah Waste Bank. They want their life to be the example of their family and neighborhood. They walk the talk by consistently implementing waste sorting. In the beginning, even their family thought what they are doing is troublesome while their neighbors laughed at it. However, it was their consistency that scratched the curiosity of the neighbors asking why they do so.

The waste bank accommodates carrying the value toward the waste deposit. Those were never realized how sorting could bring different values to each type of waste. Even their family started to experience the benefit of the lesser waste at home. Has their effort come to an end? Definitely, NOT.

Asri, one of the founders of Berkah Waste Bank, has been in charge of the Treasury since September 16, 2016. He has been a witness and one of the perpetrators of the waste bank through its ups and downs. Together with 4 other founders, they developed a waste bank until its members reached approximately 400 people. They used various ways to approach the local government and stakeholders of Belawan II Village to get support, not in terms of material but rather to the community.

Why do they need so? It is because out of 44 neighborhoods in Kelurahan Belawan II, only about 10 neighborhoods registered as members of Berkah Waste Bank. Drawing back to the dream of Berkah Waste Bank’s establishment, it needs the participation of all 44 neighborhoods to bring changes into Kelurahan Belawan II. The dream is to create a 'Free Waste Living Environment'. Only when the full participation from community members occurred, then the changing behavior happened, to bring the free waste coming true.

It has been 4 years of struggle; do they fail? Of course NOT. It might seem that the dream is still far away ahead. Yet, that is just the big canvas that transforms many aspects of their life, one of those is income. Through the waste bank, each member owns a savings account which can be given in form of daily needs since the selling of waste is not given in form of cash.

They do not just stop there; they even register to the saving-loan cooperative as well. Therefore, their saving will be automatically used as the saving in the cooperative. Amazingly, the waste bank became the starting point of the member being economically empowered. Moreover, the members are also able to do charity by giving 10% of their savings to support drop-out task force Kelurahan Belawan II, formed by GNI, of getting the children back to school. They empower to empower.

The commitment of the founders to consistently apply the values of the waste bank within their daily life, maintaining the accountability by having a well-managed financial report, despite all the struggles, downs, and the dream that might seem far away could bring those awards from local government 2 times in a row. Besides, the waste bank won the competition held by Unilever. The award-winning, Berkah Waste Bank now owns VR as their transportation for pickup service which brings innovation to their way of working. Not yet to mention that now they have signed a partnership with Buddha Tzu Chi Foundation as the partner to support material, capacity development, assistance, and networking.

All of those values that follow, started from the dream of proper living conditions. GNI could probably be the agent that light the flame. Yet they dare to start despite the lack of experience and support from their surroundings. It is that dream which makes them able to see the waste as the chance to transform their life better. Another important point is also the fact that stakeholder holds an important role to support the development of the community. Therefore, they should accommodate any lining community to dig their utmost potential.

Written by Luwyse H. Sianipar,
Design, Monitoring, and Evaluation Officer

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