Something stinky in Nieuw Menteng– BBC documentary on Jakarta garbage hits close to home

BBC did a full documentary report on the Sharehouse area garbage team!

“Desensitized” said one foreigner who has been living in this parta Jakarta for several years also. I think that’s just about the size of it. I’m going ahead with the composter, the bio pores and English classes for the bin man’s kid.

If you’re interested in how it turns out, post a COMMENT BELOW and we’ll let you know.

Sharehouse Earth Day 2012

Ninety percent of the video reportage was shot within a stone’s throw of the sharehouse. I remember seeing a crew in the area once, recently. But that’s very common. You’re always stumbling into a music video, TV spot or soap opera. Indonesian TV covers jobs that require you to work on the street all the time, including garbage families. But this is different. Some of it even looks good, especially Jl. Malabar and around the park. (But not very well edited and too long.)

The Sharehouse garbage guy, Pak. Udin, is in one shot. Just last week we hired him to cut the trees, which means extra income. (But it’s true the guys are scared they’ll be framed for something and lose their job. They hardly dare stand up for themselves. Udin, I’m told, still remembers I yelled at him because his cart was blocking the front gate as a guest was walking in.) Our garbage bill is Rp 50,000/month and I have no idea how much he gets. I remember he used to kind of have to fight over it with the local neighborhood unit chief (AKA “Pak RT”). We would always wonder where the money went when the RT would ask us to kick in to help Udin because he was ill or a family member had died. I would say the service is really good. There are a lot of issues in this neighborhood, aside from whether we give money directly to the bin man or not:  how he’s supposed to get the garbage; what if other people dump garbage on our garbage heap — does he have to hall that too; what if we have cut trees or have more trash than usual; how much time off does he get?  But bin men are certainly the first or last Jakartans to work hard and do their best despite a utterly rotten, broken, stinky system.

Earth Day Model

This is the border of South and Central Jakarta, sandwiched between extensive graveyards and vacant lots. Maybe that’s why it’s an important rubbish staging area. There’s also a lot of freelance recycling (they call ’em the pemulung). I used to think more about garbage when I still had the Cannondale. There’s a congregation in Kota that ministers specifically to the homeless/people living on the railroad track. There used to be a healthy little recycling community in the vacant lot behind us. Almost entirely relocated as of a month ago. The vacant lot between Jl. Guntur and Village Bakrie isn’t very vacant anymore.

Tons of issues, really. Being homeless, being a recycler and being a bin man aren’t at all the same thing. But they are related. It’s about people assuming that the system works. It doesn’t! Jakarta is broken. The current garbage system presupposes access to all parts of Jakarta by guys pulling handcarts piled high with garbage. In fact, they do have access. You’ll see them easing up the major thoroughfares counter-traffic in the merciless heat. There are plenty of traffic implications. Jakarta is clogged and congested by it’s own clearing and cleaning processes. We need the rains to wash the garbage down the Ciliwung and out to sea. But the garbage in the water causes the river to overflow and flood.

I’ve always assumed the garbage families were outsiders, not originally from Jakarta. I don’t really have any evidence either way on that. But I have noticed it’s a family thing. In other words, it’s a way to raise a family. It’s a life. And often in Menteng you won’t be able to see all of everybody who’s resting in or under the hand truck. But you can tell basically who’s there — mom, dad, kids.

There are bin families all the way from Cikini to Monas along the route the train takes. You can conveniently catch up with them at the small park next to the Cikini train station. And there’s a community in Senen near the tracks, there. That was where Pak Tambus worked. He was an unorthodox Christian minister who used to frequently hold services –including for Muslims and poor Chinese — out on the railroad tracks.

I don’t know why but over on the swish side of the tracks where [former] Jakarta Governor Fauzi Bowo lives garbage costs Rp 25,000/month.


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