We spoke to Paola Cannucciari about ecoBali and it’s fight against the tide.
Can you tell us a bit about how and why ecoBali started?
ecoBali started out of concern for the environment, as Bali was becoming increasingly polluted by unmanaged waste. At the time there was a lack of proper waste management in place, so we decided to establish ecoBali. Our first step was to provide a waste collection and recycling service based on waste separation at the source for the non-organic fraction, which is all plastics, paper, metal, glass, etc. Our goal from the beginning has always been to see waste as a resource whereby recyclable materials are recovered and recycled and only the residue is taken to the landfill. In doing this we are always striving to find as many solutions as possible so we can reduce the maximum amount of residue.
What was the initial response when you first started out in 2006?
We definitely raised interest, at least among people like us who were concerned about the environment and wanted to manage their waste responsibly. Of course in those years waste management was not the hot topic it is now. It’s good to see so many organisations working on it, as well as a bigger commitment from the government. Gradually over the years we have been able to reach out and collaborate with many people including residents and businesses.
How have you seen the perception of waste management change in Bali over the past decade?
The perception is changing, although there is still room for improvement. Most of Bali’s waste still goes into the landfill and there are places where we still have illegal dump sites and people burning waste. However, the waste bank program has shifted the perception at the community level because people finally get to see how valuable their waste is. When we go to banjars or schools, we’re not only raising awareness about waste, but also the waste issues we’re facing here in Bali. So the awareness seed has definitely been planted.
What are the biggest challenges with waste management in Bali?
Well, we always say that the two biggest factors are awareness and facilities, and they go hand-in-hand. You can have the awareness, but without providing the facilities and an organized collection system with separation at the source, it’s difficult to make a difference.
What accomplishments are you most proud of?
We are proud of everything we do. Through our service we have proven that implementation of separation at the source is not only possible, but it has also enabled us to manage more than 1.100 m3 of waste every month with a reduction of waste to landfill of 75-80%. This is thanks to our commitment and various partnerships in finding solutions to increase recyclability of the waste we manage. Working with schools and communities has also always been one of our highlights. We’ve reached more than 8,000 students and 1,000 teachers and provided consistent waste reduction programmes in schools. We’re very proud of our recent accomplishment of finally getting to partner with the government, specifically the Badung Environmental Agency (DLHK), for waste bank programs. The deal enables us to reach more communities and banjars in Tibubeneng village (where our office is located) and beyond and establish more community-run waste banks in the Badung area.
Your vision is to enable everyone towards a zero-waste lifestyle. How far away do you think Bali is from this goal?
I think we’re getting there, starting with the plastic ban implemented in Denpasar this year and with more waste banks being created. For us a zero-waste lifestyle means zero waste to landfill or nature. We tackle waste issues in many different ways including waste collection services and home composting solutions so that zero food is wasted. We also upcycle the bottles we receive into drinking glasses, offer reusable bags like our Net Bag Set as a substitute for plastic bags, and create waste banks that encourage more people to commit to waste separation at the source, which is one of the ways to achieve zero waste to landfill.
Do you have any new and exciting projects in the works at ecoBali?
Oh we always have new and exciting projects in the pipeline, but we can’t divulge what we’re doing at the moment. For sure we will keep everyone posted via our social media though.