Trading Plastic for Rice


via Pixabay

The “Plastic Exchange” helps to feed families with rice.

Bali is an island province in the country of Indonesia. Much like the economies of many islands, Bali’s is heavily dependant on tourism. Millions of people travel to this land in Indonesia to view its natural beauty, beautiful beaches, hiking trails, rich culture, and more. The industry provides thousands of Balinese jobs. But when that came to a screeching halt due to the Covid-19 Pandemic, people living there started to go hungry. This created hardships for thousands of people and the province became even more poverty-stricken than it was before. A resident and hero, Made Jamur Yasa, is working to address this problem as well as another prominent issue; plastic.

There are special aspects of Balinese culture that help guide his efforts. There is a lot of traditional wisdom, one is named tri hita karana, which is the three ways to achieve happiness. It includes dignity, human-to-human connection, (which is considered prosperity), and human connection to the environment. It is the belief that if all three things are happening, then that is how people reach happiness. 

Plastic pollution is a large problem in Bali because the people there don’t know how to handle or dispose of it. Yasa decided to take action after viewing plastic everywhere, such as when going hiking, to the beach, or to the temple. He also noticed that people were really struggling with earning income and providing their families with something to eat. So he came up with a plan. His “Plastic Exchange” helps feed families and the community as well as clean up the island and collect the tons of trash and plastic littered around the island of Bali. The program brings together local neighborhood groups that collect plastic from the beach, rivers, homes, streets, and surrounding areas. They work with a company and send the plastic in for proper recycling since they don’t have a recycling plant in Bali. Once a month, villages hold community exchange events in which residents can bring that plastic to trade for rice.  So far, the organization has helped feed 30,000 families and reach out to 200 villages over the past year. It helps educate people and change behavior and bad habits by showing examples through action. Yasa’s goal is to expand this movement from island to island to Asia, to the whole world. He says, “There is no small dream. If you believe, and we do it with the community and you will succeed.”

Made Jamur Yasa’s plastic exchange is a successful initiative that was the effect of the Covid induced collapse of tourism on Bali. It helps provide food to thousands of people while at the same time teaching how to protect the Earth and its environment.