Founder of The Plastic Exchange & CNN Hero 2021
It amazes me how open-minded our island is… the receptiveness to come together to create change is incredible.
Tell us your story – how did you get here?
In May 2020, the realised effects of the Covid-19 pandemic had hit Bali and our economy. I needed to do something and saw that people needed food. I got thinking, because inside a challenge there is always opportunity. In this case, I decided that if people bring me plastic, I would give them rice. The next day I went to my village in Tabanan and we put this idea into action. Within the first day, we collected 200 kilos of plastic, and in 17 days, we had collected 2.6 tonnes.
What accomplishment are you most proud of?
Seeing how the communities have embraced the program and taken ownership of the initiative. Each Plastic Exchange (PXC) event is led by the local community and has become the local hang-out. Moments that come to mind include a woman who thanked me a few months ago. She is probably in her late 70s/80s and expressed that because of the Plastic Exchange, she has a newfound sense of purpose. She wakes up each day now to collect plastic around her home/community and is so proud!
Another story is of a group of guys. They get together in the evenings after their long days and enjoy some beers together. Well, they decided during their hangouts to start collecting plastic – and the rice they receive from each exchange is then given to the local elders.
What impact have you made in Bali?
By attacking the problem from the foundation, we have seen a change in people’s behaviour toward discarding plastics… we have watched villages transform in the last 1.5 years alone!
What does 2022 look like for you?
Collaborating with businesses to create an impact, and investing in machinery that can reuse plastic material and provide a product that is returned back to the community in the form of bricks, fuel, power, and food! We are focusing our efforts to solve the problem IN Bali without outsourcing to Java (currently, no recycling centre exists in Bali).
What do you love most about Bali?
The people. It amazes me how open-minded our island is… the receptiveness to come together to create change is incredible.
What's the one change in the world you’d like to see?
More community-led creative solutions for the environment. Plastic Exchange is based on Dignity, Prosperity and the Environment – and we strongly feel that these are universal values that connect us.