Indonesia, an archipelago with more than 17,000 islands and a population exceeding 270 million people, is home to breathtaking landscapes, diverse cultures, vibrant traditions, and a rich tapestry of marine life. Yet, beneath this nation’s undeniable beauty lies a pressing issue that poses significant environmental, economic, and health challenges: plastic waste. Indonesia grapples with a plastic waste problem of an almost unprecedented scale, seriously threatening its diverse marine ecosystems and the livelihoods of millions of its inhabitants.

The Plastic Pollution Problem

Plastic pollution is certainly not a problem unique to Indonesia. As of 2021, there was an estimated 150 million tonnes of plastic waste floating in our rivers and oceans worldwide… with approximately 11 million additional tonnes making their way into our oceans every year1

However, the scale of plastic pollution in Indonesia specifically is staggering. As the second-largest contributor of plastic waste to the world’s oceans (second only to China), the country produces 6.8 million tons of plastic waste per year. Only about 10% of that ends up in recycling centers. Approximately 625,000 tons of plastic waste ends up in the oceans annually2.

Video courtesy of Gili Eco Trust

For anyone who’s visited Indonesia, it’s easy to see where the plastic waste is coming from. Ubiquitous plastic bags are the primary culprit, closely followed by PET bottles, single-use food packaging, beverage cups, drinking straws, and Styrofoam containers. Items that are used for only a few minutes will end up clogging waterways (where they can take up to 1,000 years to degrade)3, littering coastlines, harming marine life when mistaken for food, and eventually turning into microplastics (tiny fragments, invisible to the naked eye, which have permeated every corner of our oceans and even entered the human food chain).

As you can imagine, this amount of plastic waste causes a huge number of problems, both locally and globally. In many parts of Indonesia, overtaxed landfills result in toxic wastewater that seeps into the ground, affecting the growth of crops, and into rivers, threatening biodiversity and marine ecosystems, as well as the livelihoods of those who depend on the fishing industry. In addition to that, areas like Bali and Lombok that rely on tourism as a huge part of their economy struggle with the diminishing appeal of litter-strewn beaches and plastic-filled oceans.

Our friends at Gili Eco Trust do a great job of showing the plastic pollution present off the shores of Gili Trawangan.

How is Classroom of Hope Helping?

Given that a significant portion of the Classroom of Hope team and many of our projects are based in Indonesia, the plastic pollution problem has been front and center for us for years. We are deeply rooted in the belief that solutions can emerge from the heart of challenges like these. That’s precisely why we’re so committed to our new Block Schools initiative and our partnership with Block Solutions Indonesia!

The Dual Benefit: Education and Environment

With Block Solutions’ technology, we’ve found a new (and beneficial) use for the plastic that’s polluting our environment: Block Schools. These environmentally friendly Blocks—made entirely from recycled plastic—aren’t just any building blocks; they’re durable, lightweight, sustainable, and designed to last for decades. 

By using this technology to build structures throughout Indonesia, we’re addressing two significant challenges simultaneously. On the one hand, we’re creating permanent and earthquake-resistant learning structures, ensuring that students in Lombok have safe and conducive learning environments. At the same time, we’re transforming what was once environmental debris into building blocks for schools. Every classroom built with Block Technology repurposes one to two tonnes of plastic waste that might otherwise end up polluting our oceans, rivers, and landfills!

The Broader Impact: Hand in Hand with National Goals

At Classroom of Hope, we always try to think about the wider impact of our mission and projects. In this case, we know the impact extends beyond just buildings; it’s about amplifying a message that’s already resonating strongly within Indonesia.

The Indonesian government, aware of the enormity of the plastic pollution problem, has taken significant steps to combat it. They’ve set ambitious targets, aiming to reduce marine plastic debris by 70% by 2025 and achieve a plastic pollution-free Indonesia by 20402. This commitment to sustainability, involving policy reforms, behavioral changes, and innovations in waste management, underlines how the nation is already on a path toward change.

Against this backdrop, our hope is for these initiatives to help strengthen the nation’s journey. Through our Block Schools, we’re reinforcing the teachings of sustainable living, the merits of recycling, and the urgency of cutting down plastic usage. By demonstrating that plastic waste can be repurposed into something valuable and enduring, we’re not just building infrastructure; we’re transforming perceptions.

Indonesia’s commitment to mitigating plastic waste is evident. With local communities, businesses, and global citizens increasingly becoming part of this movement, our projects underline the collective responsibility we all share. Together, we’re not just solving a problem; we’re shaping a sustainable future for Indonesia and the world.

Join the Movement

As we celebrate these achievements and milestones, we’re acutely aware that the journey is far from over. Indonesia’s plastic waste problem didn’t emerge overnight, and it won’t be resolved instantly. But with every block, every classroom, and every home, we’re taking tangible steps toward a cleaner, more sustainable future.

Thank you to our incredible community of supporters, believers, and change-makers for making this possible. A special thanks to the members of The Block community, our committed donors whose monthly contributions go directly to our Block Schools Program. Together, we’re not just building schools; we’re reshaping the environmental narrative of a nation and revolutionising the way building is approached across the globe!

We invite everyone to be a part of this transformative journey. Remember, wherever you stand on this planet, your footprint matters. Let’s make it count in the right way. Together, we can turn challenges into opportunities and hopes into realities!

1: Indonesia is battling plastic waste long before it gets to sea | World Economic Forum (weforum.org)

2: Leaders Tackle Plastic Waste in Indonesia – The Borgen Project

3: Center for Biological Diversity – 10 Facts about Single-Use Plastic Bags