These Tiny Living Things May Contribute to Waste Management in Jakarta

The evergrowing garbage mass is a common problem in many places. This includes in Jakarta as a capital city with the highest population density in Indonesia.

According to the World Economic Forum 2018, Jakarta produces approximately eight million tons of garbage daily. Of those, only six million tons are managed, while the rest two tons were left uncontrolled. This raises concerns as the volume of waste produced in Jakarta continues to rise.

Much effort has been done to solve waste issues. This include reducing the use of materials that can potentially turn into waste, to reuse certain items, recycling, and even to transform waste into a source of energy.

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Various waste management methods. Source: Global Waste Management Outlook, UNEP 

Even so, a majority of garbage ends up at the landfill site. For example, all waste collected in Jakarta are transported to Bantar Gebang landfill, Bekasi.

Unfortunately, such large volume of waste cannot be handled within the capacity of existing landfills. It was predicted that in a few years Bantar Gebang landfill site will no longer be able to contain anymore garbage from Jakarta. A breakthrough solution is of importance in such situation.

bantar gebang

Trucks lined up waiting to unload their garbage at Bantar Gebang landfill site. Source:

The use of microbes co-habiting within the landfill environment should be considered as a potential solution. Microbes are super tiny living beings, whether they be bacteria, mold, or protozoans. The rich content of organic materials that are “edible” for these living beings means the landfill environment is a great place for various microbes to grow. In other words, microbes play a huge role in decomposing our garbage.

To understand what kind of microbes exist within a landfill site, two methods may be employed.

First, by growing these microbes on synthetic medium in the laboratory. However, it is very difficult to mimic the actual living conditions for microbes. Therefore, any microbe that grow in the laboratory perhaps only represent a very small portion of microbes that actually do live in the landfill ecosystem.

Metode ini dikenal dengan istilah metagenomik. The second method is by mapping the genetic diversity of microbes based on their DNA. This method is known as metagenomics.

Through metagenomics, various information regarding the identity of microbes and their potential metabolic role in decomposing garbage may be obtained. Such information can be used to design a strategy to accelerate garbage decay.

Realistic rendering of bacteria - in green colors

Microbes are everywhere, including at the landfill site. Source:

In several countries, this approach has been done to reveal the  diversity of bacteria in landfill. Three groups of bacteria were found dominant in the landfill environment: Firmicutes, Proteobacteria, and Bacteroidetes. These groups of bacteria are known for their ability to degrade organic materials. If the amount of these bacteria are increased in the landfill area, it is possible that they will boost waste decomposition. However, this has to be investigated more.

In addition, current findings showed that certain microbes can be used to tackle plastic waste problems. Plastics are hard to degrade, yet some microbes are able to break down plastic polymers to smaller components that can be destructed further.

As time goes by, comprehensive research efforts will improve the use of microbes in waste management. This is needed to solve growing waste accumulation issues, particularly in Jakarta.

Meanwhile, would you like to make a contribution in the war against garbage? Let’s start from ourselves. You may shop smartly to avoid wasting food. You may also bring your own reusable water bottle and food containers the next time you head to the canteen. These simple actions may also help reducing garbage accumulation!

This article was written by Evina Nelly Natalia Sihite, a student at the Master’s Program in Biotechnology. Evina is an environmental enthusiast who works as a Chemistry teacher at a private high school in Jakarta.

Editor and Translator: Watumesa Tan

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