Plastic is fantastic for Indonesian scavengers

Tom Allard; 5/12/09

As the sun rises over the hills of Bantar Gebang and the roosters crow to welcome the morning, a familiar scene unfolds. The call to prayer from the mosques that dot this 120-hectare site outside Jakarta has finished and schoolgirls in neatly pressed uniforms are gathering before heading off to class. Flocks of ducks and geese scurry through the villages and vendors prepare their stalls to serve customers bubur ayam, the chicken porridge that is an Indonesian breakfast staple. Men and women don traditional conical hats and strap wicker baskets to their backs ready for the day’s work. There are 6000 of them and they head to the hills carrying the tool of their trade, long metal rods with sharp hooks on the end. But these are not farmers. They are pemulungs, or scavengers. And the hills are not covered with tiered rice paddies, trees or crops. They are colossal mounds of waste, towering into the sky.