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SUBMIT OCEAN PROBLEM

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Yayasan Misool Baseftin’s submission

Posted by Nancy Goldstein | California, United States

Bank Sampah, Yayasan Misool Baseftin’s successful community recycling program in the heart of Sorong City, Indonesia, diverted 85 tons of ocean-bound plastic in 2017. We are currently on course to more than double that number to 200 tons by 2020. Assistance has come from many corners in the form of additional machinery, USAID funding for public education and outreach, and an agreement with the local government to extend our services to an additional 3,000 households while helping officials to systematize waste collection over the next two years.

Even by the standards of Indonesia — the world’s second largest culprit when it comes to plastics pollution of the marine environment — the need for recycling facilities in Raja Ampat and Sorong is particularly acute. Sorong has no waste handling facilities and no municipal program for cleaning trash out of the rivers, beaches, harbor, or ocean. Consequently, the rubbish its quarter million residents throw into their rivers washes out to sea, and then follows the current to account for 70% of the waste in the ocean surrounding Raja Ampat, home to the most biodiverse reef system on earth.

Plastic pollution threatens to destroy those very systems that underpin sustainability throughout Indonesia, the fourth most populous nation in the world. These include the fishing industry that provides essential employment and the fish that constitute a primary food source for its people. The damage that ocean plastic causes Raja Ampat’s scientifically valuable world-class reef system is worsened by the fact that this same reef underpins the burgeoning tourism industry so critical to poverty alleviation in this and other poor coastal communities.

We are proud of Bank Sampah, which provides a scalable, replicable systemic solution to the very real environmental and economic threat posed by plastics in the marine environment. Moreover, it’s moving steadily towards covering its own costs, fuels economic growth, and offers an institutional means of saving and safeguarding personal funds in a community with few other options.

We are eager to see how a crack team of scientists and an infusion of funding could further our fight against ocean plastic — first, by using Sorong and Bank Sampah as laboratories, and then by using the research and methods developed to scale and replicate what we learn throughout Indonesia, other island nations, and the world.

Here are three different projects around challenges. Taken separately, each could be overcome in two years with the assistance of $1,000,000 in additional funding and a crew of superhero scientists. We’re interested in hearing which project most intrigues BOI.

  1. Measuring and evaluating the array of microplastics in the food chain and their effect on human health and well-being. This would be an invaluable step towards influencing governmental policy on the manufacture, distribution, and disposal of plastic. Furthermore, it would inform community behavioral change around reduced plastic consumption and proper disposal.
  2. Tracking marine plastics in Raja Ampat by putting together a map of where the plastic is coming from, then tracking the movements of the plastics based on ocean currents. That would be a valuable tool for local governments advocating for changed policies and behaviors.
  3. Learning more .about the scale of the ocean plastics problem would be a key first step towards developing scaled solutions. Consequently it would be helpful to establish a baseline on municipal plastic and plastic in the ocean.

As recently as 2016, the World Economic Forum warned that plastics in the ocean would outweigh fish by 2050 unless there were drastic changes in current production and disposal patterns. Yayasan Misool Baseftin’s Bank Sampah has played a key role in helping to alleviate that trend in Sorong and Raja Ampat by providing an effective, sustainable, and scalable market-based solution to this seemingly intractable problem. Now it’s time for Bank Sampah to go from transforming the local landscape to next step research that will further its goal of serving as a replicable model for municipalities throughout Indonesia and beyond.


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