Indonesia has experienced a devastating tragedy caused by poor waste management. The 2005 landslide in the Leuwigajah final disposal site (TPA) in Cimahi, West Java, claimed 157 lives and wiped out two villages. This catastrophic even marked National Waste Awareness Day, is commemorated annually on February 21 to raise awareness about proper waste management practices and to prevent similar incidents from occurring.
This tragedy, however, is just the tip of the iceberg. Indonesia generates millions of tonnes of waste daily, making it one of the largest waste-producing countries globally. The country also has the highest municipal waste in Southeast Asia, creating a pressing problem that affects public health, the environment, and the economy.
But amidst this crisis lies an opportunity. Entrepreneurs and innovators can create sustainable solutions that can transform waste management practices in Indonesia. Climate-tech startups like Rekosistem lead the way by providing waste management and recycling services to improve waste management. Ernest, the CEO and Co-Founder of Rekosistem, shares his overviews on waste management, solution approaches, and how to start a climate-tech business.
Tackling the waste problem in the region
Ernest Layman and his college friend Joshua Valentino saw the potential to turn waste into treasure. In November 2018, they started their business as an MSME waste-to-energy named KAHIJI, a renewable energy generating business powered by organic waste. Their vision further developed in 2021, when they launched Rekosistem to enable people to lead more environmentally sustainable lifestyles by making waste recycling more accessible in Indonesia.
Rekosistem’s innovative solutions are revolutionizing the waste management industry. They offer waste management and recycling services through their Repickup service, which collects trash and deposits it at the nearby Reko Waste Station, their drop point location. All of the collected waste will be managed in the Reko Waste Hub, a material recovery facility where mixed waste is sorted into approximately 50 categories so that the right type of waste can be processed in the right waste recycling facilities. With over 5,500 tons of waste successfully processed, Rekosistem has served over 20,000 homes and 100 businesses around the hub. They also help their waste workers’ ecosystem to spend less and gain more by standardizing the operations and improving their recycling rate, so no more recyclables are wasted.
Rekosistem is making a significant impact on waste management practices in Indonesia. They have successfully collaborated with the government, companies, and neighborhood/community units (RT/RW) to manage waste sustainably. Their strategic partnership with the DKI Jakarta Environmental Agency is a testament to their commitment to creating a cleaner, healthier environment for all.
Sorting for recycling value chain solution
Indonesia has a waste problem, with only 10% of Indonesians sorting their waste, according to the Ministry of Environment and Forestry (KLHK). The result? The mixed solid waste generated from homes, businesses, and industries is burnt or disposed of improperly, polluting the air and soil with toxic substances like carbon monoxide, formaldehyde, and arsenic.
But there is hope. Rekosistem builds a Reko waste station and hub facility where community waste is managed within a reuse, recycle, and renewable sustainability framework. Their sorting facilities are the first step in a journey that takes the trash out of landfills and onto a path of responsible recycling.
Their technological approach includes an online application that coordinates regular waste collection schedules in specific locations, making it easier for people to recycle. Rekosistem offers a reward point system for every kilogram of recycled waste submitted, which can be exchanged for e-wallet balances. It is a novel innovation that encourages the public to be more aware of recycling and to make it a part of their daily lives. Yet, Rekosistem doesn’t stop there, their technology can link their waste ecosystem with townships, buildings, and even consumer brands to trace the waste journey and make a clearer roadmap towards Net Zero through a waste circularity approach.
Tips to build waste management startup
Ernest shared that the role of a waste management startup is very beneficial in lowering the environmental impact of garbage, particularly by grouping waste to make processing easier. He identifies three essential strategies for startups in this sector to get off the ground:
1. Focus on what matters most
Concentrating on the waste that will be managed in business processes that collapse is important because trash consists of a lot of ethical waste. Classification allows the identification of areas for improvement and the application of targeted solutions to address these concerns.
2. Expertise the field
Waste management entails several processes: collection, transportation, sorting, treatment, and disposal. Developing solutions for just one sector can result in massive profits. This should be accompanied by education about the unique selling points to pique people’s interest and increase public awareness of waste.
3. Scaling and collaboration
In a world where technology and business models are continuously evolving, organizations that can effectively collaborate and co-create are more likely to survive market disruption and maintain competitive advantage. Through collaboration, organizations will take less time to enhance productivity and solve pain points, both which will contribute to generating revenues more quickly.
“The challenge for the waste business is how we can laser focus on the economically viable things. Hence, we need to prove to everyone that this business model is environmentally sustainable and economically viable,” Ernest said.
In conclusion, entrepreneurs must find the sweet spot to meet the economic viability and a product that can scale easily because by presenting an effective solution to the waste problem. Collaboration is also important to accomplish company objectives that, when pursued independently, appear to take longer time. Your startup can scale up and add your service value through these partnerships.
You can also help to protect the environment and provide solutions for the waste issues. Join us at the Climate Impact Innovations Challenge by East Ventures and Temasek Foundation, where aspiring entrepreneurs realize their innovative ideas to help tackle four main issues: Renewable energy, Food & Agriculture, Mobility, and Ocean.
Learn more about the Climate Impact Innovations Challenge and submit your innovations here.