Plastic waste is a huge problem in Indonesia, and this has led the country’s second-largest city to come up with a novel approach to encourage residents to recycle — free bus rides in exchange for used plastic bottles and cups. The city of Surabaya launched the initiative back in April, and commuters can ride city buses by either dropping off the plastic bottles and cups at terminals or using the plastic items to pay their fare directly.

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Under the new recycling initiative, a two-hour bus ticket costs up to five plastic bottles or 10 plastic cups, depending on the size. The city hopes this scheme will help it meet its target of becoming free of plastic waste by 2020.

Garbage, like plastic bottles, piles up in my neighborhood, so I brought it here, so the environment is not only cleaner but also to help ease the workload of garbage collectors,” said Linda Rahmawat, a resident of Surabaya.

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According to Reuters, Surabaya is the first Indonesian city to implement this program, and data show that 15 percent (nearly 400 tons) of the city’s daily waste is plastic. The data also show that one bus can collect up to 550 pounds of plastic each day, totaling about 7.5 tons each month. After collecting the plastic waste, workers remove labels and bottle caps before the plastic is sold to recycling companies. This money then goes toward bus operations and to fund urban green spaces.

The head of Surabaya’s transportation department, Irvan Wahyu Drajad, said that Indonesia is one of the world’s biggest contributors of plastic waste, and the city hopes that this new system will raise public awareness for the environment and the problem of pollution.

Via Reuters

Image via Rudi Lansky