Thursday, 4 December 2008

Subjective notion on garbage

Waste or garbage, can be seen from many different point of view. It can be perceived in totally different ways depending on who you talk to. For some, waste is a source of income, for many waste is a dirty things, a potential risk to health or something worthless, while for some waste is something that is discarded by someone, implicating uselessness. How waste can be perceived in totally different ways depending on who you talk to. People in general, can be categorized as waste producers. When we think of waste and garbage we might think of consequences for public health and the environment. The perception of waste as posing a health hazard is widely spread and promoted, and is sometimes also reinforced by experiences of garbage as constituting a real health problem. It is not surprising that, besides often has a strong negative aesthetic aspect, the characteristics of most waste, the unpleasant looks and smell, makes it easy to relate to waste as a risk for health. Unless is forced to, or as a part of his/her source of income, nobody wants to live nearby garbage.

At the junction of jl. Cirebon & jl. Bandung one of the business district in Medan.
Take a closer look at the woman selling food near garbage mount (below).

Waste in the street can be perceived as a social contagion, an artifact of negative aesthetics. In the mind of people a dirty street is assumed to add some of its qualities to the characteristics of the people living nearby. Thus a dirty street is feared because it could give the impression that people living in that street are also dirty in the eyes of other living in the cleaner district. No one likes to be branded dirty in the eyes of another and some people seem to fear being categorized as dirty due to someone else’s behavior.

Not one single man thought it would be convenient to litter in a very clean street. People were likely to respond that in a very dirty place, where there already was a pile of garbage, there would be nothing stopping them. Although some people expresses concern about the risk of throwing certain types of waste in the street, the main reasons for not littering or throwing garbage in clean streets apparently have more to do with social conventions than worrying about the garbage. Self control is rather directed towards not destroying aesthetic aspects than being normative in the way of ‘never litter’

For some, garbage constitutes a significant problem. They live in districts without a garbage collection service or in neglected neighborhoods. They also take the trash out on the street, but when they wake up it is still there. Their children play in it and occasionally suffer from the health effects, and dogs and cats rip open the bags and spread around the contents. Flies and other vectors accumulate, and foul odours fill the air.

A hut of garbage collector for whom garbage is a source of income

Despite such unpleasant characteristics, garbage is for some the only source of income and can truly be a blessing from God. One man’s waste may be another man’s livelihood.

Tuesday, 28 October 2008

Garbage : between problem and risks

There are many definitions of what we constitutes waste. It eludes any objective definitions. In the Microsoft Encarta Encyclopedia 2003, waste is defined as rubbish or materials that are not needed and are economically unusable without further processing. While in The Concise Oxford Dictionary - 1995, the definition of dirt is an ‘unclean matter that soils’, ‘excrement’, ‘a dirty condition’ or ‘a person or thing considered worthless’. It may be in liquid, gas, or solid form and originate from a wide range of human operations, such as industry, commerce, transport, agriculture, medicine, and domestic activities.
Waste is widely known as a potential source of problem, as well as risk to public health and the environment. It is necessary to distinguish between problem and risks.
A problem is something that has occurred or is presently taking effect. It imply that a compromise has to be made, consciously or unconsciously, between the experienced drawbacks and the possible gains of unchanged behavior. Problems are therefore distinctly separated from risks and are bestowed with different motivational qualities.

Risks, on the other hand, are something that has not yet occurred, but very well may do so in the future. A problem is something that has occurred or is presently taking effect. A risk can turn into a problem, when the forecast of risk actually takes place, or when previously unknown effect of a risks generating issue disclose themselves as having negative effects. Risks project only one possible future. However, since they have not yet developed into problems they do not always generate the same motivational force for a change in behavior as problems do. The way risks are perceived and how grave they are considered to be, surely depends on how they speak to the individual. Most risks is we probably do not even bother with as long as they don’t bother us.

There is much debate today revolving how we can eliminate risks. Eliminating risks is a part of waste management. It is a kind of prevented action as to minimize problems occur in the future on the expectation to prevent waste to cause harm to human health and the environment.

Saturday, 28 June 2008

Industrial Ecology

Concept of Industrial Ecology represents a relatively new and leading edge for manufacturing and business, which has just been intensively considered within the last 10 years. The concept of Industrial ecology was made popular since it was published in Scientific American by Frosch and Gallopoulos (1989) and was first formalized in 1993 by Indigo Development, a team of people from Dalhouse University in Nova Scotia and Cornell University’s Work and Environment Initiative. The concept was further developed by Ayres and Ayres (1996) as well as Ehrenfeld and Gertlet (1997).

Dramatic improvement on knowledge and technology has made levels of consumption on goods and services globally increase. This led to the increase of consumption on material and energy resources while, the biosphere’s capacity to provide resources is limited. At the limits to material throughput, sustainability requires that the growth in the consumption of goods and service be accompanied by a proportional decline in the energy and material intensity of that consumption. This is one of the ideas behind development of Ecological approach to industrial system.

Another consideration is an awereness that the move to the ‘sutainable development’ needs to include industrial sector in their economic activities. However, to include industry in reaching ‘sustainability’, basic development to increase quality on industrial environment and resources efficiency is required, as well as an integrated industrial activities with their community. Implementing industrial ecology involves such things as life cycle analysis, closed loop processing, reusing and recycling, design for environment and waste exchange.

Industrial ecology adapts the ecosystem analogy in industrial system, which is principally concerned with the flow of materials and energy through system at different scale, from product to factories and up to national and global level. In a concept of industrial ecology, industrial system is not viewed as a single system isolated form its neighborhood, but as a unity. It refers to the exchange of materials between different industrial sectors where the waste output of one industry becomes the feedstock of another. In this system, material cycle is optimized, from raw material, components, products and final waste, including resources, energy and capital. Ecology on industry, manufacture etc. is aimed to begin reducing in using energy and material (dematerializing) in a frame of global economy.

One of the elements of industrial ecology is industrial symbiosis. Industrial sysmbiosis focus on flow of materials and energy through network of businesses and other organizations in local and regional economies. It consists of place-based exchanges among different entities that defer a collective benefit greater than the sum of individual benefits that could be achieved by acting alone. Such collaboration can also increase social capital among the participants enganging in exchanges. This collaborations also examines technical and regulatory considerations that have come into play in various locations that can facilitate or inhibit industrial symbiosis. Finally, it considers future directions with regard to industrial symbiosis based on historical and current experience.

Source :
1. Chertow, M. Uncovering Industrial Symbiosis, Journal of Industrial Ecology vol. 11 no. 1
pg 11-30 MIT and Yale University, 2007
2. Korhonen, J. Some Suggestions for Regional Industrial Ecosistems – Extended Industrial Ecology. Eco Management and Auditing 8, pg 57-69, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. And ERP Environment, 2001
3. Peck, Steven W. Industrial Ecology : From Theory To Practice can be accessed at

Saturday, 21 June 2008

Rearrangement on Public Transport System to Increase Energy Efficiency

The fact that the sale on motor vehicles in this country increase dramatically every year brings a rise to national income. What is concerned regarding this is fuel energy crisis we are facing, when purchasing on fuel will be limited and controlled using smart card system which is being prepared by the government. The increase of motor vehicles will increase demand on fuel (read : ‘fossil’ fuel). Until today it is remained unknown whether or not this tendency on increasing demand has been followed by projection analysis on fuel energy needed as a consequence. Today, just to fulfill the need on fuel energy for industries, transportation, and house electricity, the government faces difficulties due to limited amount of in country fuel stock.

Most motor vehicles sold in developing countries are vehicles that high consume fuel. This is based on consideration that these motor vehicles of high consume fuel are of relatively cheaper technology, so the vehicles can be sold in an affordable price for people in developing countries; compared to motor vehicles with high technology which are much more expensive. Imagine when the number of motor vehicles increase every year, energy crisis will be much worse than what we are facing today. When this crisis affects industrial sector, the social impact will accelerate the plunge of this nation. Industrial sector will collapse which will followed by increasing the number of unemployment; and the social costs will be very exspensive.

The World Business Council for Sustainable Development, an organization representing over 50 large multinational corporations, in 1993 had held a workshop on the parameters of an ‘eco-effisien’ economy, and concluded …. “reductions in energy use of over 90 percent will be required by 2040 to meet the needs of a growing world population ….” In practical term, what this means is that if for example, you currently drive a car that achieves a fuel efficiency of 10 kilometers per litre, by the year 2040, your new, super light car will achieve 10 kilometers from one tenth of a litre. There must be reductions of energy throughput by factors of 9 and 10 over the next 32 years. Today, manufacturer of motor vehicles from developed countries has been developing their technology to produce light energy cars refered to this recommendation.

What is going to happen on highly consume fuel motor vehicles on developing countries then? Will these motor vehicles turned into useless cars prematurely, caused by unsufficiency of fuel stock? Emerging effort in fuel energy efficiency has to be done in many ways. Development on technology to convert fuel energy to alternative energy which is environmentally friendly is one of the many ways. Another way is to remanage public transport system. The good public transportation and its system will reduce the use of private motor vehicles which will increase fuel energy use efficiency and moreover, will reduce air emission.

In most developed countries, the ministry of transport in cooperation with local transport authority have make use of information technology in managing their transportation system. For example, public transport system in Sydney implements Public Transport Management System (PTMS), Real Time Passenger Information Systems, Priority Systems, Timetable Management, Schedule Adherence and Vechilcle Tracking System Motorway Management System. Malaysia, since the year 2005 has put into practice an Integrated Transport Information System, Advanced Traffic Management System, Automatic Incident Detection System and Automatic Vechicle Location System on some local public transport system. The goal is to optimize service on public transport by providing optimal number of bus, adjusting cycle lengths, splits and offsets between intersections to maximize throughput, minimize delays and reduce the number of stops en route, to provide accurate, reliable, consistent and intelligible information to bus passengers while providing low cost easy to use management tools for bus operators.

It is obvious that to use high technology would cost a lot. However, the compensation from reducing subsidy on fuel can be diverted to buying high technology in order to get a long term solution in overcoming fuel energy crisis. This might be a better choice to do than distributing the money as Direct Cash Aid (Bantuan Langsung Tunai) and Student Financial Aid (Bantuan Keuangan Mahasiswa) which probably cannot be done regularly and does not solve the core problem.