Project STOP: Partnerships to End Ocean Plastic Leakage in Southeast Asia

“Before Project STOP, especially in the river, it was really dirty. You couldn’t see the water; it was full of waste. In small streams, big streams or in alleys – there was a lot of waste,” says Ramhat Hidayat, head of a sub-village in Muncar, a coastal fishing community in East Java, Indonesia.

Launched at Our Ocean in 2017 and co-founded by Borealis and SYSTEMIQ , Project STOP (Stop Ocean Plastics) brings together industry, government and NGOs to design economically sustainable waste management systems that aim to end ocean plastic leakage in Southeast Asia. Muncar was the project’s first city partnership.

“Project STOP has collected over 1,800 tonnes of waste, 200 tonnes of which is plastic, and 30,000 people now have access to proper waste collection,” says Joi Danielson, Project STOP’s Programme Director. “The project has also created 65 jobs.”

The way Project STOP works is as a ‘system-enabler’, where a team of international and local experts supports the municipality with assessing the interventions needed, designing an improved waste management system and then help them with project management, technical expertise, financial planning, skills transfer, behaviour change and recycling and reprocessing.

“Working together is very important,” says Danielson, “and the success of Muncar is the result of the contribution of more than 1,000 people, working across governments, local organisations, religions and gender groups. It truly requires the full buy-in of everyone.”

The difference that Project STOP has made in Muncar can be seen most of all by the local community: not just in terms of better education and economic sustainability through job creation, but a concrete shift in attitudes and pride.

“Since we started Project STOP, we have also learned.” Sub-village head Hidayat continues My child is around 4 years old. He now knows where to dispose of waste. In the past, we knew nothing about this. We used to throw litter directly into the river. We don’t do it anymore. We’re grateful for this programme.”

“In the past, people often said that being a waste worker was a low job,” says Sri Wahyuni, a sorter worker, “and no one wanted to be a sorter. Now, everyone wants to be a sorter. I am proud as I can work in TPST (waste processing facility).”

Project STOP’s Scaling Director Jason Hale sees this same spirit in his work on the ground in Muncar.

“Driving around the community, you can see how much cleaner it is, but also how people are embracing the programme. You can see the pride of the fishermen, who are no longer walking along trash-lined beaches. They really do walk with a spring in their step and even report that fishing has improved as a result.”

At Our Ocean in 2018, Project STOP announced further commitments to roll out improvements and expand the project to two additional cities in Indonesia. The teams have already begun expansion, replicating what has worked in Muncar but also continuing to innovate.

“We want to learn as much as we can. In the next city, we’re going to try new approaches,” explains Danielson. “Instead of hiring workers as in Muncar we’re going to try a micro-entrepreneurial model to support waste pickers within the community achieve asset ownership. We’re also looking forward to testing different types of packaging to find alternatives that further minimise ocean plastic leakage.”

Most importantly, the signs are positive for the future rollout of the project across the whole country.

“We hope that Project STOP will be disseminated to all villages in Indonesia if possible,” says Hamidah, a housewife in a sub-village, “because this programme isn’t just good – it’s fantastic.”

Photo Credit: Systemiq