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How Waste Management Reform Began With Friendships in This Indonesian City

Towards the Human City: Boys in Bandung

What started out as a small, informal group of friends organizing to improve the waste management sector in Bandung, Indonesia, grew into the “Forum Bandung Juara Bebas Sampah,” a movement that achieved both, social and policy changes. Today, this forum has created cross-border connections among parties that rarely worked together before, including NGOs, governments, journalists, and the private sector.

The initiative was born when current Bandung mayor, Ridwan Kamil, won the election. His victory marked the end of a 10-year era of conflict between environmentalists and the Bandung government. The previous mayor (who is currently in jail due to corruption) wanted to build an incinerator. During his term, he suppressed 3R movements (reduce, reuse, and recycle), and waste management became a hot political issue that at times turned violent. 

Towards the Human City: Garbage in Bandung
Garbage in Bandung |  Towards the Human City

A group called Bandung Institute of Technology Environmental Engineering organized a meeting and brought together many friends from the waste management sector, many of whom knew each other for a long time through work and alumni groups. The meeting’s attendees agreed that, after a difficult period during the previous mayor’s era, it was time to collaborate on bringing their home city of Bandung to achieve waste management excellence. Our vision was for Bandung to become a waste management model for Indonesia. With so many waste management experts living in Bandung but working outside of the city due to unsupportive political conditions, we decided to take advantage of our expertise to create a Bandung that is a good place for our children and grandchildren. It was ironic that we many of us help other cities, when we know that our own city is going in the wrong direction.

Towards the Human City: Girls in Bandung
Girls in Bandung |  Towards the Human City

Aware that we needed to capitalize our strength as a network of people from various backgrounds and positions, we decided to contribute strategically. We wanted to connect all stakeholders in Bandung around this waste management issue, in order to create common vision, creative collaboration across sectors and among multi-stakeholders, and other types of joint efforts. 

The group is creating more fluid multi-stakeholder collaboration by erasing the official borders, which usually prevent us from talking and collaborating, through the creation of a forum where everybody represents themselves equally as citizens. Even government officials and politicians are Bandung citizens in their daily lives, and they are fathers and mothers of children who need a better and more sustainable ecological future in this city.

The group’s vision has been enhanced by the personal friendships between people of various sectors, which have created a trustworthy environment where everybody has good will and wants to learn from each other.

Towards the Human City: Friendships in Bandung
Friendships in Bandung  |  Towards the Human City

This process to speed up common vision and collaboration on waste management from all stakeholders already has influenced policy changes. These include the creation of a waste management masterplan, development of a municipal waste management institution, several drafts of city-wide regulation on waste management, various creative and strategic collaborative programs, and enhanced participation of waste management practitioners and academics in various policy forums. Overall, we are achieving much more coordinated decisionmaking and implementation of various waste management programs that did not exist in the past.

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