Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Corporate Environmental Responsibility in Indonesia?

Wonders will never cease...

In my experience, telling people in Asia that you don't want a plastic bag for your shopping is a bit of an ordeal. After much puzzlement and despite all protestations, your stuff usually ends up in a plastic bag anyway. Then, when you take it out of the plastic bag and leave it sitting on the counter the whole situation is so novel that it normally sits there for a while, half-deflated, still holding the shape of your bunch of bananas and bottle of orange juice before they either throw it out or realise they can still use it for the next person.

I don't pretend to be an expert on the environmental economics of plastic bags, and I suspect that plastic bag reduction efforts get a disproportionate amount of attention (at least in Melbourne where people can be rabidly self-righteous about rejecting plastic bags) compared to their contribution to the average person's environmental footprint, but considering how easy it is to make gains, I think they're a good idea. They're especially vital in Jakarta where plastic bags make up a huge portion of the solid waste clogging up the waterways, which makes a major contribution to the annual floods.

So, you'll understand my surprise when I was in Carrefour (a huge multinational hypermarket chain) the other day and saw this:

Not so sure what's up with the "come hither" expression...

Translation: Buy once, forever. Broken Carrefour Green Bags can be
swapped for a new one... Free!

The best part is that they're only Rp. 2,000 (around about US$ 0.22, A $ 0.25), which - even in Indonesia - is a pretty small amount; especially for the types of people who shop at Carrefour. Interestingly they were all sold out which means that either Carrefour is poor at managing stock or that the promotion was much more successful than they hoped - I'm hoping the latter and that we see more promotions like this in future.

Cokelat Monggo

While I was back in Jakarta over the past three weeks I had another chance to eat my fill of good Indonesian chocolate. "Good Indonesian chocolate?" I hear you cry... A Beng-Beng or a Silver Queen can hit the spot now and then, and I'm no chocolate connoisseur, but there's no way I'd class most Indonesian chocolate as anything very far above edible, when there's nothing else around. It's kind of waxy and thin-tasting; kind of like those cheap easter eggs I used to get as a kid.

A few months ago I was in Circle K in Bendungan Hilir and I noticed something new there: Cokelat Monggo. It looked like imported chocolate, but it had a Javanese name, and Shelley likes dark chocolate so I figured I'd give it a go. It's produced in Jogja by a Swiss chocolatier using Indonesian cocoa beans and it's really, really good. Price wise, it's not so different to imported chocolates (which is a bit of a shame) but it tends to stand the heat a little better and I like to support local industry...

The only place I know to buy it is in Circle K in BenHil, but if you see it around, pick up a block.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008


I'm in Jakarta at the moment for work and my trip happened to coincide with the Chinese New Year holiday. I took the day off to head out to Kampung Melayu to say hi to Ardy and whoever else was around. While I was chatting to Ardy about stuff a bunch of kids turned up with a plastic bag filled with bits of copper - wiring, hinges and whatnot.

They'd spent the day picking over trash heaps to tear out dynamos from radios, electric motors from washing machines, and wiring from pretty much anything else they could find. Apparently they get Rp. 50,000 (about A$6, or US$5) a kilo from some guy down the road for it. It struck me because when I was back in Australia over new year I heard a couple of stories on the news about some enterprising young go-getters who were stealing power lines and high voltage cable from railway lines to sell for scrap. The kids assured me that they weren't doing anything like that, but then, only two of them consented to having their photo taken...