Kopernik’s War on Single-Use Plastic: Initiating a multi-pronged strategic battle plan

The war on single-use plastic is initiating a much-needed tidal wave as national governments wake up to a global crisis. The Government of Rwanda enforced a plastic bag ban in 2008, and has a zero tolerance policy to the production and usage of plastic bags.1 The sale, production or use of plastic bags in Kenya may lead to severe punishment, including facing a fine of up to $38,000 or a sentence of up to four years in prison.2 Other countries have recently followed Rwanda and Kenya’s example: the Government of India announced its pledge to eliminate all single-use plastic by 2022;3 an Australian Senate inquiry has recommended that all single-use plastic be banned in Australia by 2023.4 And in 2017, Indonesia’s Minister for Maritime Affairs committed one billion dollars to removing plastic and other waste from Indonesia’s waters at the World Oceans Summit hosted in Bali.5

Kopernik, a Bali-based non-profit focused on lean experimentation in last mile communities across Indonesia, intends to improve our own ecological footprint by asking ourselves how we can assume responsibility as an organization, and as individuals, in significantly reducing the use of single-use plastic. Kopernik works directly with last mile communities to develop and test sustainable approaches and products that alleviate poverty. We came together as an organization to discuss the specific actions we can move forward in our own homes, office, and communities to play our- admittedly small but hopefully impactful- role in conquering our dependency on single-use plastic.

We decided it is simply not enough to ask people not to use single-use plastic, so we’re adopting a multi-pronged strategic battle plan to wage war on single-use plastic.

Firstly, we banned non-essential single-use plastic in our office. Kopernik recognizes change needs to first come from us, and we took an honest look at our own behaviors as an organization. We adopted a single-use plastic free zone, which means that colleagues are not allowed to bring any single-use plastic into the office that have known greener alternatives and are encouraged to buy in bulk. Each week we go through our trash and weigh all the plastic that has been thrown out as part of our internal monitoring. Before implementing our single-use plastic free office, our Ubud-based office of 50 colleagues produced a total of 3.9 kg of plastic waste that we took as our baseline. By the tenth week of implementation, we collectively reduced the total amount of single-use plastic thrown out in our office to 1.4 kg. We are slowly but steadily demonstrating collective change in our individual habits. We don’t seek to promote a culture of “name and shame”. Rather, we hope to encourage behavioral change and better practices within our own organization through education as well as sharing and celebrating of our collective successes in reducing single-use plastic.

Secondly, we are collaborating in a creative partnership with Akarumput and Watchdoc, and developing an educational video series called Pulau Plastik- ‘Plastic Island’ in Bahasa Indonesia- to reach a broader audience and engage new partners. We place emphasis on an educational approach to demonstrate the need for immediate dramatic changes at the policy, community and individual levels. We hope that Pulau Plastik will not only result in a greater understanding of the plastic waste problem in Bali, but initiate improved waste separation, composting and disposal by households, as well as an increase in community activism and policy redirection that subsequently impacts plastic bag use.

And what about the huge amount of plastic that is generated in Bali? The island alone produces 3,452 m3 of plastic waste per day of which three-quarters is not disposed of properly.6 3,452 m3 of plastic waste per day is the equivalent of 3,452,000 liters, or 911,922 gallons, of waste being generated daily.7

While it may feel like a drop in the (plastic-filled) ocean, Kopernik’s third initiative in the war on plastic seeks to demonstrate how plastic can be innovatively recycled and made into a value-added commodity through our Precious Plastic partnership. Kopernik’s Solutions Lab has built a do-it-yourself plastic injection machine designed by Precious Plastic. The plastic injection machine takes recycled plastic waste and turns it into customized sellable plastic products.

Prior to building the injection machine, Kopernik’s Solutions Lab researched the type of plastic waste available, and the retail price per kilogram. After we constructed our plastic injection machine, we determined the final cost to build one machine, the cost to cast a mold, and the kilograms of plastic required to generate one customized product. After selling the injection machine’s products, Kopernik reviewed the units sold and unit price in addition to customer testimony and feedback.

More soon this month on our Precious Plastic partnership and plastic injection machine!

1 https://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/28/world/africa/rwanda-plastic-bags-banned.html
2 https://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-41069853
3 https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/asia/india-plastic-ban-2022-single-use-narendra-modi-world-environment-day-a8385966.html
4 https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/jun/26/recycling-senate-inquiry-recommends-all-single-use-plastics-be-banned
5 https://www.theguardian.com/environment/the-coral-triangle/2017/mar/02/indonesia-pledges-us1-billion-a-year-to-curb-ocean-waste
6 http://www.tribunnews.com/regional/2014/12/22/sampah-plastik-di-bali-capai-1150-truk-per-hari
7 https://www.convert-me.com/en/convert/volume/m3.html?u=m3&v=3%2C452