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Workers removing low value items (Plastic bottles) at the Manado landfill site

No need to be down in the dumps

The landfill site for the town of Manado on the island of Sulawesi has been filled well beyond capacity and its leachate treatment facilities neglected.

ExpertiseWaste management, masterplanning and strategy support


The site is also occupied by a community of waste pickers and their families. Most of the recyclable content of the waste is removed before it reaches landfill, but the one reusable resource remaining is plastic bottles. A lot of bottled water is drunk on Sulawesi so there’s a huge quantity of these bottles, and the waste pickers make a living by retrieving and selling them.

As part of a US$100M World Bank mission to improve waste management across Indonesia, our clients appointed us to assess options for Manado. But a careful balance had to be struck so that proposals would not remove the only source of income for a vulnerable community.


Our analysis showed an informal process of recycling had developed that was working well. High value waste items were retrieved before going to landfill, often via door-to-door collection. The pickers then removed the low value items – plastic bottles – at landfill. This meant almost everything with any recyclable value was being removed from the waste stream.

By studying this activity, we increased understanding of it. Rather than trying to develop an alternative – which would be costly, possibly not as effective and unfavourable to the waste pickers – our advice was to build on it and make it a more formal, market-driven process.


Local land ownership laws make it difficult to locate a new landfill site, and it was crucial to minimise the waste that will go to it. We carried out a composition study and found most of what was going to landfill was organic, so we proposed an organic waste treatment facility. This would include a material recovery facility where waste pickers would be employed by the government to retrieve plastic bottles in a much safer and healthier environment than the open landfill. While still a challenging way to make a living, this would be preferable to no livelihood at all – and it would offer some financial and physical protection. Our proposals were accepted and funding term discussions are ongoing.

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