Recently I spoke to Laurie Wallis a geography student at University of Sydney who has been living in Depok for the last six months studying and collaborating with Indonesian students. Through chatting to Wallis about his experiences I hoped to gain some insight into how the student community and youth culture engages with sustainability issues in villages and cities. In Wallis’ opinion, there seems to be a large diversity in the suburbs of Jakarta’s urban sprawl, “Youth culture in Jakarta is also a bit of a thing of its own. Whilst some suburbs like the one I am in are quite conservative (in much of Jakarta the sale of alcohol is prohibited), in other suburbs there are bars, restaurants and live music venues that aspire towards western hipsterdom”. Whilst there is a diversity of religion and conservatism in the cities, the villages Wallis has experienced have been much more agriculturally focused, once outside metropolitan areas.

“Cultural and social norms will change quite a lot between different areas as Indonesia has a regional autonomous government system. This means many of the important societal government decisions (like education and health projects) are the responsibility of individual regional governments rather than the central national government. Each region/village also has a particular set of cultural norms and traditions that are inherited from family and residents in an area (think like shamanism or a set of ceremonies and superstitions which constitute the unique spiritualism of particular places). This is called an “adat”, all over Indonesia there are different adats based on traditional spiritualism and superstition.”- Wallis

Image 1: Local Waste Bank
Image 1: Local Waste Bank

Chatting to Wallis about his experiences of conservatism, youth culture and village/urban living got me thinking about how the diverse cultures and communities within Indonesia can engage with waste management strategies given the different social, economic and political situations of the individual micro communities of Indonesia. Waste management is a complex and long running issue in Indonesia, different communities engage with waste management in relation to their social, economic and political climate. Projects and companies “are gaining in expertise and cultural sensitivity, some initiatives founder as people fail to fully consider cultures impact” (Bird & Osland, 2006), diverse cultures and societies will engage with waste management strategies in differing ways specific to their own context.

Much of the city youth culture engages with sustainability issues through art and design activist practices, remixing global movements surrounding environmentalism, “conceptualizing activist practice as a process of remix acknowledges the agency of local subjects in relation to globally circulating identity discourses” (Crosby, 2014). The conservative outskirts of urban areas as well as village communities have a different set of beliefs guiding their engagement with sustainable practices. Perhaps youth of village areas are more likely to be lead toward sustainability by traditional agricultural farming practices, family and spiritualism rather than how city youth culture engages with a more global design activist movement. The Waste Bank initiative works just like a regular bank where you can open an account and make non-organic waste deposits, which are then weighed and given a monetary value, this is then saved into your account for you to withdraw later. The villages outside Jakarta engage with this initiative on a socio-economic level, rather than as an ‘environmental activist’, contributing to sustainability more through traditional agricultural practices. Practically “garbage equals money…each household manages to save about 50,000 rupiah (about $5) a month” (Salim, 2013). Through the waste bank these savings can be practically put to use by helping pay for household and education needs. Indonesia has differing social and cultural contexts meaning that how people engage with waste management and sustainable practices vary between urban and village spaces.

1. Salim, R., 2013, Waste Not, Want Not : “Waste Banks” in Indonesia, The World Bank:IBRD-IDA, East Asia and Pacific, viewed 30 April 2015, < >

2. Bird A. & Osland, J 2005, Making Sense of Intercultural Collaboration, International Studies of Management & Organization, Vol. 35 Issue 4, p115-132. 18p, viewed 29 April 2015, <>

3. Crosby, A. 2013 ‘Reexamining Environmentalism in Blora, Central Java’ in International Journal of Cultural Studies, Vol 16, Issue 3, pp 257-269, Sage Pub. viewed 19th April <;

4. Image 1: The World Bank, Waste Not, Want Not: ‘Waste Banks’ in Indonesia, viewed on 29th April <;

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