This post provides the background of how the Sharehouse took interest in Jakarta garbage culture and — most recently — the following two fun and easy-t0-read whitepapers:
- Jakarta neighborhood waste management — a recent study with a practical bent and specific Menteng focus co-authored by an engineering team with members based in Australia and Indonesia; and
- A slightly more dated paper based on research done in Menteng over a decade ago by Rafealla D. Dwianto — this is a good grounding in Jakarta Neigborhoods and How They Work and thus provides indirect light on local garbage. This paper is also fun because it compares the two different “sides” of Menteng
Anyway, if you live on the fancy side of Menteng, you may very well have no idea what happens to your trash after you throw it on the floor or wherever. This, of course, is a very good thing. And you should stop reading now!
On the Jl. Guntur side of Menteng, where the Sharehouse is located, even before the BBC did their mind-blowing video report on local trash culture, we had a hunch. Almost anyone who’s ever driven to the far end of Jl. Guntur — to where it abuts the filled-in wetlands that are being developed for office towers — has a good shot at witnessing a vast pile of garbage, stinking to high heaven, being attended to by bare-hand, barefoot workers using pushcarts and no other technology whatsoever to deal with the rubbish of a society that becomes palpably wealthier and more consumptive every single day.
Although when I first came to this part of town I used to enjoy mountain biking the ganglia of little footpaths that criss-cross the city and are especially important to the gerobak proprietors and those that use their freelance hauling services.
I noticed that in the lots between Menteng and Kuningan (then mostly vacant, now mostly not) there were a lot of obviously staging areas for things as specific and varied as abandoned mirrors (to be resold) and empty Mama Lime dish soap bottles (to be recycled).
Once I became a self-employed house renter I had various opportunities to hang out at home and observe the interface between the house I lived in and the other houses in the neighborhood network. I learned that it’s not OK for blossoms from my side of the wall to fall onto the neighbors’ side — and that invariably identify that as a “garbage” problem. I was particularly keen on one particular port, which I’ll call the “garbage hole.” Into it the Sharehouse maid (and occasionally other known and unknown third parties) deposit trash and through it the city-paid garbage man (and various other freelance refuse workers) fish for our trash using sticks in the early morning hours. (“Our” guy is Udin and he prefers to access the trash from the inside (after you open the gate for him) and moonlights doing gardening work . That kind of stuff is good to know.)
With the assistance of Sharehouse including maid and front-gate security, I began to monitor the garbage hole (no longer in use closed) which is something most Jakarta houses also have in order to facilitate the passage of kitchen and other trash from the inside to the outside of the property. Very recently we began inspecting and weighing garbage, as an intermediate step to reduction and recycling.
I didn’t really have in mind anything like Imam and Wilbur’s BBC video essay as an option for learning about and experiencing the organization of local sanitation activities. That was kind of jolt, but a good one. If you’ve got questions about how trash collection works around here, then swing by tonight and ask Pak. Imam (who teams up with London bin man, jazz singer and amateur journalist Wilbur Ramirez in the BBC video). He’ll be here to demo the local sanitation team’s motor-gerobak and chat with neighbors about trash culture.