Bali is a region of the world that most people put on their bucket lists. Its white beaches, turquoise water, lush nature, and rich history and culture attract people from all over the world. The area thrives off the steady stream of tourists, something that, thankfully, can be relied upon.
At least, that was the case before the pandemic.
Just like every other country, Indonesia closed all non-essential services during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic. It was a necessary precaution, but for a place that tourism is so essential to, Bali was hit hard. Hundreds of thousands of people were employed in a position that one way or another was benefited by the tourism industry, and suddenly, they couldn’t work anymore. This forced many to return to their home villages, or to go hungry.
In Bali, there is a strong human-to-human connection. No matter one’s situation, people do what they can to help their neighbors. Local restaurateur, Made Janur Yasa, knew there had to be something he could do not only for the struggling Bali population, but for the island itself. Bali faces a long-standing battle with plastic pollution, and it only got worse during lockdown.
Made Janur Yasa. Credit: Pinterest
“I said to myself, ‘I got to do something about this,’” says Yasa. “I got to thinking, inside the challenge there is an opportunity.”
The first event was hosted in the village in which Yasa was born and raised in May of 2020, and it was more successful than Yasa expected. Nearby villages took notice, and the Plastic Exchanges spread like wildfire. Now, the Plastic Exchange happens on a monthly basis.
“Teenagers come with a smile. Elderly people are there. Young kids come with their mothers. That’s what keeps me going, to see them all excited about it,” Yasa says. “They were feeling powerless, and this gives them hope.”
A video from Plastic Exchange.
Thanks to his nonprofit, thousands of families have been fed, and 300 tons of plastic have been collected for recycling. Made Janur Yasa and his growing team with Plastic Exchange purchase rice from local farmers, stimulating the Balise economy even further.
He’s also noticed a change in the community as a whole. People make more of an effort to sort through their plastic waste, as different plastics have different values. Many even collect plastic off the streets on a daily basis.
“People have fun with it. And now, after one year (of) this, picking up plastic is sexy. It’s the cool thing to do. People just get into it. Now, we are working with 200 villages. My goal is really to spread this movement.”
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