Commuters in Indonesian city pay for their bus ride by recycling plastic bottles

Indonesia has a major issue with plastic waste, but now the city of Surabaya has come up with a novel way to encourage its residents to recycle waste – by giving free bus rides in exchange for used plastic bottles.

Under the scheme launched by Indonesia’s second-largest city in April, commuters can ride red city buses, known as SuroBoyo Bus, by dropping off plastic bottles at terminals or directly “paying” a fare with bottles.

A two-hour bus ticket costs 10 plastic cups or up to five plastic bottles, depending on their size, which the city hopes will help it meet an ambitious target of becoming free of plastic waste by 2020.

City data shows that 15%, or nearly 400 tonnes, of Surabaya’s daily waste is plastic.

Irvan Wahyu Drajad, the head of Surabaya’s transportation department, said: “Indonesia is one of the biggest contributors in the world for plastic waste, and through this initiative, we hope to raise public awareness on the environment, especially issues that relate to plastic trash.”

A bus can collect up to 250 kg (550 lb) of plastic bottles a day, or roughly 7.5 tonnes in a month, the data shows.

After collection, labels and bottle caps are removed from the waste and it is auctioned off to recycling companies.

Money earned from the auction goes toward running the bus operations and to fund green spaces in the city, located on the eastern tip of Java, Indonesia’s main island.

Indonesia is home to the largest expanse of tropical rainforest in Asia, but it also struggles with grid-locked traffic in its congested cities. The country is also estimated to be the world’s second-largest contributor of plastic pollutant in the oceans after China.

Rosa Medea is Life & Soul Magazine’s Chief @rosamedea

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