On Sunday November 10, we hit the streets behind our school to join in the Clean Up Jakarta Day campaign. About 40 students, teachers and parents worked our way up the back lanes of our school to pick up the stray plastic bags, water bottles and of course, the millions of cigarette butts covering every surface of this country. There is nothing really enjoyable about standing over a drain and pulling at congested plastic and hoping it doesn’t come flying up in your face, but it certainly felt right to be making even a small gesture in helping to clean up this place we call home.
The locals were certainly amused at the strange mixed bag of people with their cleaning gloves and recycling bags as they became theTukang Sampah (rubbish person) for the day. In the end we collected 16 bags of rubbish and sent them off for recycling. Hopefully it at least stopped the flooding of the drains for one day.
Next year, we hope even more people get involved in the campaign and that the government can start to make more of an effort to reduce the waste in this place, and to educate people about where to put that waste. I was thinking this as my ojek driver threw his used plastic bag onto the street and I imagined that plastic bag making its way eventually into the belly of a fish, and it made me sad about what we are doing to this planet. So many people in Jakarta exist more in a survival mode, rather than one of flourishing so it’s okay if there is rubbish everywhere, or if you burn plastic and inhale the toxic fumes, or sit behind a bajaj blowing poison in your face, or toss your rubbish into a drain; there isn’t a chance to make a connection between a toxic environment and bad health when you are on survival mode. But something has to be done fast for this place and Clean Up Jakarta Day is certainly a good beginning.
NOTE: Also a HUGE THANK YOU to Angela Richardson at Jakarta Expat Magazine for starting the Clean Up Jakarta campaign, now in its second year.. well done in being active in making positive changes in Jakarta!