“We all need to be part of the change”, says Reza Bath, Co-founder of ETAPAS, a fusion between environmental fin-tech and recycling company. Indonesia produces 64 million tons of waste annually, but as the 4th most populous country in the world still only has a few viable solutions in place to tackle the problem. The recycling rate is only about 2 percent, reaching a maximum of 7.5 percent in rural areas. The rest ends up in landfills. After all, Indonesia is a developing country with a population that is still entering the workforce in rising numbers. When your primary goal is to put food on the table, waste management and growing landfills is arguably not a top priority.
But, “we know that this has to change, we need more awareness for waste with the general public, our Government cannot do this all alone.” Reza’s philosophy runs deep, he has first-hand seen how the EU and the US handle their trash. “They are better, but recent developments have shown that they equally have been kicking the can further down the road by selling China much of their plastic waste.”
You could say that Indonesia’s waste management system is still in its infancy, but at the same time, this is also the opportunity for engaged people such as Reza, who seek to positively influence change. He explains that he is looking at how to help a growing Indonesian system, supporting existing structures whilst bringing innovation. “Indonesia is struggling with implementing its 3R’s, the Reduce, Reuse and Recycle system, because it is so difficult to find someone who is willing to further the system on a greater scale. This is why we came up with the idea to build an e-trading platform for waste to make things easier, whilst avoiding to destroy lively hoods.” Indeed, there are many thousand people in Indonesia whose income depend on trash collection, scavengers, collectors, sellers and re-sellers before the materials finally reach their recycling destination. When looking at numbers, the current process is not efficient, but this doesn’t mean you have to reinvent it to mitigate change:
“Ideally ETAPAS can enhance existing structures, stabilizing quality and pricing for the collectors and offer a steady supply for the recycling companies”, Reza explains.
The start-up sees itself as a half company, half environmental activist. “Most of us have a background in recycling and have a good insight to business, bottle-necks and the current state of legislation. Primarily we want to help, positively influencing the environment” is how he explains the philosophy of the company. Indonesia already has a battered image as the world’s second largest ocean polluter, only triumphed by China’s large rivers.
Reza points out, that these are not problems that are impossible to handle; “when looking closer at the existing issue, you’ll begin to see solutions. Other countries have achieved great results by building simple trash barriers at river exits; you can already find them on YouTube. Why can’t we do something similar?”
Indeed, the entry barrier is not that high, and much of the waste draining through the rivers is valuable and can be collected instead of adding to ocean pollution.
ETAPAS say they are already speaking with companies that are interested to help as part of their CSR programmes.
But Reza feels their mandate shouldn’t stop there: “We’re also looking at existing legislation, which is often confusing and needs to be brought closer to the people. To create awareness, we’re also launching a small series of comic’s which are designed to put bureaucratic procedures into simple facts.” Reza’s energy is inspiring, and indeed, awareness is the first step to change. No matter where you are, being part of that change is important.