January 4, 2022, 04.06 PM
An illustration of plastic recycling. freepik.com/vectorjuiceAn illustration of plastic recycling.

KOMPAS.com - For Balinese souvenir shop owner I Kadek Rai Nama Rupat, the past two years during the Covid-19 pandemic have been a fight for survival.

The pandemic has prevented the foreign tourists that usually throng businesses like his on the Indonesian resort island from coming and rising food prices have compounded the economic pain.

But a local non-profit group is offering help by exchanging rice for plastic trash that is then sold to a recycling company.

Also readIndonesia Highlights: Jakarta is the World’s Most Vulnerable City to Environmental Risks: Report | Covid-19 Vaccine Hesitancy Drops among Indonesians | Indonesian Military Thwarts Smuggling of Motorcy

"Every piece of plastic waste is very valuable for the villagers today and our economy," said Rupat, who exchanged about four kg (9.5 pounds) of plastic for one kg of rice.

Rice costs about 15,000-20,000 rupiah ($1.05-1.40) per kg and locals estimate a family of four consumes about two kg per day of the staple, so the trade-in is worth the effort.

The Bali Plastic Exchange was founded in May last year by I Made Janur Yasa, who like many Balinese saw his main business running a vegan restaurant hit hard by the pandemic.

The 55-year-old said the driving force behind his project was a desire to feed communities in his home province in Bali and to improve the environment.

Also readIndonesia to Reopen Bali to International Flights from Oct. 14

Indonesia is the world's second-biggest contributor of plastic pollutants in the oceans, according to a 2019 study published in the journal Science.

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