Racing Towards A Crash with Bantar Gebang Landfill

So we went home from the seminar haunted by a spooky question: why do we prefer to clean up after our waste instead of preventing the massive waste to be happened instead? We got an alarming news this month, that National Geographic deemed TPST Bantar Gebang  to be thought as the biggest dumpsite in the world. 

It’s not the biggest landfill in the world for sure, the terms might confuse you. TPST Bantar Gebang should be an open landfill, but it isn’t equipped with proper waste management/recycling system yet. Their waste-to-energy plant (called PLTSA Merah Putih) is more or less still a pilot project, started in March 2019 with managing capacity up to 100 tonnes per day. They are building Intermediate Treatment Facility (ITF) for further management effort, but it’s estimated to start to operate by 2022.

Problem is, TPST Bantar Gebang is also being predicted to reach its peak around 2021. 

Rounded up at 110 hectare in surface area, this open landfill is packed with 39 million tonnes of waste at the end of 2018, around 29% of it was plastic waste. The maximum capacity? 49 million tonnes. Being force fed with 7000-8000 tonnes of more waste per day, in two years we can kiss it bye bye. 

Picture courtesy: Andrew W. Bassford.

Picture courtesy: Andrew W. Bassford.

It’s one thing to lost our city’s personal waste-bin, but sometimes we forgot that there are  actual people residing right in the middle of it.

Recently, one of our Bantar Gebang MOC women was forced to move out from her semi permanent house because the landfill needs more land to be covered in waste. We know we couldn’t do anything as the land wasn’t belong to her, but this gives us a cold hard slap  to see how such impact could probably be avoided by simply slowing down our excessive consumption rate, and be more mindful.

Picture courtesy: Andrew W. Bassford.

Picture courtesy: Andrew W. Bassford.

Pemkot Bekasi proposed to receive 367 billion rupiah in 2020 for Bantar Gebang compensation fund, and 351,8 billion rupiah for partnership assistance fund regarding TPST Bantar Gebang. The compensation fund was 141 billion rupiah in 2019, it should be distributed to the locals to compensate the health risk of living in the middle of a giant dump. Air and water quality is unquestionably terrible, and being exposed to disease carrying flies, rats, it’s truly not worth 900 thousands rupiah per 3 months. 

My mind fled to the last sustainable tourism seminar again because one of our panelists said, our current mentality regarding waste problem is like preferring to mop up the water from our leaked ceiling every single time, rather than rolling our sleeves up and fix the leak. In this case, the leak will get us drowned very soon.

Picture courtesy: Andrew W. Bassford.

Picture courtesy: Andrew W. Bassford.

I remember when I was a kid, people were using much less plastic than now. We bought cooking oil (coconut oil, plastic bottled palm oil wasn’t the norm back then), with our own bottle or container. We wrap street foods in up-cycled paper bag or takir from banana leaves, and people would give us selamatan food in weaved bamboo box (besek). Chocolate were wrapped in foil and paper before the rampant growth of hot sealed plastic packaging. I’m not that old so I’m baffled with how fast things changed. We could survive with less single use plastic, why can’t we now? Well, to be fair I didn’t grow up in a big city so maybe it’s not that simple. TPA Bantar Gebang itself has been operating since 1989. 

If we still need a final wake up call, a harsh one is already delivered by the news of TPST Bantar Gebang’s current state. As consumers we have the power to choose, as citizens we have the power to push forward, all we need to do is to punch the button and start. We have to believe.

- Written by Nurul Putri