Marvie Chorawan-Basilan – Indonesia recently stopped foreign waste from entering the country but some villagers Bangun noted that "cash for trash" is their way of life – a booming business that helps sustain the needs of the village people.
Many residents of the Mojokerto, East Java Province village of Bangun rely on scavenging to earn money. The villagers said they actually earn more cash from sorting garbage than when they plant rice in fields.
Heri Masud, one of the Bangun villagers who also rely on scavenging for a living, said the Indonesian government should find an alternative if the people will be forced to stop digging through piles of trash.
"If they're going to forbid us from this, there must be a solution. The government hasn't provided us jobs," Masud revealed. The village's land areas that were once used to plant rice are now filled with waste but due to the government's crackdown on foreign waste, villagers fear their livelihood will come to an end soon.
Aside from helping residents earn money, sorting trash also helps fund some of their pilgrimage activities. According to Masud, more or less 20 people receive financial assistance for their pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia holy sites.
Local environmentalists have stressed that scavenging can pose serious health threats to Bangung villagers. However, the residents find cash for trash as a way of sustaining their daily needs.
54-year-old villager Salam, said his job of selling rubbish to recycling plants helped pay off his children's education as well as supported his family's small livestock farm. Salam said he purchased a house just by being a waste broker for villagers and a paper-recycling factory.
Earlier this week, Indonesia shipped back tons of waste to Australia as the government continues to find ways to stop foreign waste from entering the country. The local customs agency revealed that eight containers of garbage were sent back on Monday.
The return of Australian waste from Surabaya marked just one of the ASEAN region's latest hard-line stance against accepting recyclable waste from other countries. The Philippines has also asked Canada to take back tons of garbage that was sent by a private firm.
While the Indonesian government appears to be more serious about its foreign waste crackdown than ever, some villagers who live off of trash are calling for a halt on developments.
For Bangun residents, cash for trash is not just helping promote recycling in the country. It is some sort of business for the people who are searching for ways to earn bigger money compared to farming.