Meet Paola Cannucciari, an Environmental and Conservation consultant. Paola has been in Indonesia for over two decades, and since 2006 with ecoBali; the organization that has a vision of zero waste and helps us all to grow towards achieving that goal.
Where are you from and what is your background?
I am Italian. I am a veterinarian by education but my passion has always been conservation and environmental issues and developing programs and projects to facilitate those issues. I have been in Indonesia 23 years, since 1990. I wanted to work outside Europe and my first job here was in Papua for two and a half years and then nine years in Sumatra. I was involved in conservation and sustainable use of wildlife with a nationwide program backed by the UN and of course, the Indonesian government. Since 2003 I have started to be involved progressively in waste management programs both in Indonesia and in other Asian countries.
What brought you to Bali?
I actually came to Indonesia to do my work. I did not come for holiday or as a tourist. I got hooked by the atmosphere and the people. During my work in Sumatra I met and married a Balinese. We started to diversify our interests. I became more interested in other environmental issues such as waste management and we decided to come to live in Bali. The first couple of years I was able to focus on being a mother to my son and did consulting for several foreign NGOs on environmental issues.
How did you get involved with ecoBali?
A very good friend of mine named Paolo along with a friend and committed environmentalist Ibu Cat founded ecoBali in response to the growing garbage problem in Bali. I started to collaborate with them right away and in 2006 ecoBali became an official operation. Paolo also has an educational and professional background in this area. People sometimes get confused because we have such similar names! Our director Ketut Mataadi has always had a strong interest in preserving the environment as well. We wanted to provide a service that enables people to separate waste and promote better utilization of waste through recycling and composting, while ensuring that the residue is disposed only in legal landfills. We wanted to change the mindset; the approach of how to deal with waste by not littering and not burning. Education is part of our service.
We started from the service and developed other programs linked with solutions to reduce waste. Our team grew along with the number of clients and the number of trucks. We started recycling waste and initiating education programs at schools with games and fun activities to get the next generation educated and involved. We also started a long lasting collaboration with Tetra Pak Indonesia in order to start the collection and recycling of Tetra Pak cartons that are now 100% recyclable. Besides waste collectors, we have involved local and International schools, as well as many hotels in collaboration with Bali Hotel Association.
What is the process to start composting?
By composting organic waste, over 50% of the waste is converted into rich top soil and doesn’t end up in landfills creating noxious gasses, especially when it is put in plastic garbage bags, which westerners do as well as locals. To start composting it’s easy; we first go and inspect the premises, then according to the needs we install systems that are different for food scraps and for garden clips (this is to ensure that food scraps are dealt with properly and efficiently). We provide bins and installation, a start up kit and follow up. It is a very easy system.
What happens to the non-degradable waste?
EcoBali provides garbage bags (reusable) and waste is partially presorted in the household. Then we collect and waste is brought to our sorting facility where all recyclables are sorted in more detailed categories. Most of the recyclables go to factories in Java but we also favour whenever possible more local solutions. We collaborate with a local paper manufacturer as well as up-cycle used bottles to make recycled glasses.
Bali inspires people to create programs for positive change. Why is that happening predominately here?
Bali has a culture that respects nature; a culture that attracts people for many reasons. It is the international scene of Indonesia. The right people, at the right time, in the right place creates the possibilities to get together like-minded people, Indonesians and foreigners, to do something good for everyone. It is very positive because it creates examples on local levels, which may be implemented throughout the country and the world.
Create your own commitments. Recycle and compost. Be mindful. Be aware of what you buy; how much you accumulate. Everybody is responsible. We cannot only point fingers. We need to start with ourselves and look around at what we can do. Many people have businesses here and that is a good place to create change. Look at your business and how it deals with waste. Involve your workers in positive changes towards a more sustainable working and living environment.
Is trash the biggest environmental problem we have in Bali?
It is a big problem and it is very obvious. It is in our face every day and everywhere we go. Our garbage requires a lot of attention and proper strategies. However, from an environmental point of view, fresh water availability and usage is the really big problem. It is a global problem and everyone knows about it; like energy. I believe that there is still not enough individual awareness and as a result very little action. In comparison to water we have a lot of cleanup initiatives for waste, but few that engage in better water efficiency and management.
Do you think there is hope for real change?
Yes, for sure! It takes a long time to change systems and it must be a collaboration of many entities. There is a whole new generation of young Indonesians that are committed and want to see real changes and are very active at many levels. Change needs this passion and motivation for action. Radical change needs economics and decision-making and we see many groups beginning to engage at all levels to address these challenges.
What is your dream for a better future environmentally?
Total revolution! No more waste, all reintegrated in a perfect cycle and designed to be this way. There will be new production and consumption systems. This would mean participation on the part of industry and tourism as well as at local levels. In Bali I would like to see the quality of life improved, especially for all residents but also for visitors and tourists. Some new arrivals here are very disappointed at our reality. We need to create more bike and walking areas. It will take serious commitment by everyone from the farmers to big businesses. Solutions are born out of need. The time for dramatic change is here now!
Thank you Paola! To get in touch, e-mail [email protected]