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Rethinking Recycling Academy and Plastic Smart Cities Initiative, partner to transform waste management system in Ubung Kaja, Bali

March 25, 2021

Denpasar, Indonesia (25/3) – Rethinking Recycling Academy, a recently-launched capacity building program of McKinsey.org, has partnered with Plastic Smart Cities Initiative to transform the waste management ecosystem in the village of Ubung Kaja in Bali, Indonesia. Plastic Smart Cities (PSC) is a World Wildlife Fund (WWF) initiative working with cities worldwide to keep plastic out of nature.

Ubung Kaja is a village of over 20,000 people, located in central Denpasar, the capital of Bali. “Since I was a child, there has been a lot of change. When I was in elementary school there was no pollution. We didn’t even wear shoes to walk around the village.” said I Wayan Astika, the Head of Ubung Kaja village. “After 30 years, it has all changed. It is extraordinary and very sad to see such a change.” 

Troubled by the conditions in his village, Astika was ready to take action when the Rethinking Recycling Academy approached him with the opportunity to join its first cohort. “I saw the [issues in my village] that the Academy was trying to solve. By joining the Academy [I wanted to see]… how can we return the environment to be safe and clean. How can we teach our children and grandchildren so that they are not exposed to trash and pollution.”

In partnership with PSC, the Rethinking Recycling Academy aims to empower Ubung Kaja to build a green, inclusive and economic recycling ecosystem. Ella Flaye, McKinsey.org’s Regional Director for Asia explains the key tenets of the Rethinking Recycling Academy, “The Rethinking Recycling Academy aims to provide a holistic solution that sets communities up for success. Our program works directly with communities to provide training and capability building programs to transform the waste and recycling systems right at their front door. Where we see challenges, we look to build solutions!” 

When Ubung Kaja joined the Academy, its material recovery facility (MRF), locally known as a TPS3R, was barely functioning, covering only 80 out of the 20,000 people living in the village. Since September 2020, the Rethinking Recycling Academy has worked with the village leadership, community leaders, operational managers and waste workers to transform operations at their TPS3R including community education and improving working conditions. 

“Waste produced by the community does not need to become garbage… Waste that is created can be turned into an asset,” said Astika. “Not all waste is dirty, some waste can become a commodity… and at the same time it becomes our income for the organizers, the village, and the environment.” Since the start of the transformation, Ubung Kaja has taken its first steps to economic sustainability by reorganizing their organics recycling operations to start processing and selling compost, returning this once wasted organic material into productive use.

“PSC Initiative aims to reduce plastic waste going into the environment by addressing major leakage points at city level and its urban surrounding,” said Aditya Bayunanda, Head of Footprint and Market Transformation, Yayasan WWF Indonesia. “By supporting a model of sustainable TPS 3R in Ubung Kaja Village, the community will directly contribute to the reduction of plastic marine debris coming from this area. It also serves as a model that can become a blueprint that will guide city-wide actions to improve waste management policies and infrastructure.” 

The Rethinking Recycling Academy and PSC began the partnership by supporting this iconic tourism destination that is threatened by plastic pollution. We are excited to walk hand-in-hand as partners to continue Ubung Kaja’s transformation and to drive meaningful environmental and social impact.

About Rethinking Recycling  
Rethinking Recycling is the flagship program of McKinsey.org, whose goal is to drive lasting and substantial impact on some of the World’s most complex social challenges. The organization partners with leaders from the private, public and social sectors to accelerate systemic change. Rethinking Recycling is tackling the waste crisis by mobilizing every player in the system – from waste workers to multinational companies, from village leaders to National Ministers. The Rethinking Recycling Academy, launched its first cohort in September 2020 training six communities in Denpasar, Bali, Indonesia, where only a small fraction of the population recycles their waste today.

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About Plastic Smart Cities
Plastic Smart Cities is a WWF initiative working with cities worldwide to keep plastic out of nature. Since 2018, the initiative supports cities and coastal centres that are taking bold action to stop plastic pollution. WWF is working with 25 pilot cities to achieve a 30% reduction in plastic leakage by 2025, through better waste management and advancing circular economy. Together, we aim to achieve 1000 plastic-smart cities globally to join this movement by 2030. For more information, visit plasticsmartcities.org.

About Yayasan WWF Indonesia
Yayasan WWF Indonesia is a civil society organization with local legal entity and global network, supported by more than 100,000 supporters. Our mission is to stop the degradation of the earth’s natural environment and to build a future in which humans live in harmony with nature, by conserving the world’s biological diversity, ensuring that the use of renewable natural resources is sustainable, and promoting the reduction of pollution and wasteful consumption.

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