The workers of Bantar Gebang Waste Landfill
The Bantar Gebang landfill was established in 1989 in Bekasi, East Jakarta. While other landfills in the area have closed down, it has grown to accommodate over 600 trucks per day, which deposit up to 5,000 tonnes of landfill.
Villagers from around Java continue to move into the area on the promise of work sorting through mountains of rubbish for recyclables, despite the 2009 financial crisis reducing the weekly income of the 6 man teams from 15$AU to under 10$AU.
Working twelve hour shifts, workers face not only poor living conditions, but also a myriad of diseases, ranging from skin irritations to tuberculosis. Medical treatment is simply too expensive, and workers have turned to traditional medicines instead. The local elementary school has also begun teaching students how to treat work related infections and diseases as best they can.
Children as young as five begin learning to collect after school, and begin full time work by the age of ten. Since they can earn almost as much as adults, their age and educational needs are often overlooked.
The International Labour Organisation (ILO) states that while children in Indonesia are protected by anti-child labour laws, the challenge for the organisation is to ensure the laws are being enforced.
ILO is working with the Bantar Gebang Elementary School to educate students that working in the landfill is not the only option for their future.
As the landfill’s international investment opportunities increase, both the conditions of the workers and the productivity of the landfill are being improved. Regulations for safer working conditions, free medical care for workers, and increased future prospects for children have been introduced. The landfill's administration is also implementing advanced waste management technology to produce power from 15 meter deep methane pits, and in February 2010 their first unit of power hit the grid.
Initial predictions have the dump producing 26 Megawatts at full capacity, three times the output of a similar landfill in Bali. Along with additional work opportunities from the on-site fertilisation plant, these improvements show enormous potential and point to a better future for the workers and their families.