Saturday, June 29, 2019

Internship in Waste4Change: A Whole New Working (and Learning) Experience

I didn't have a proper short-term plan after I received my scholarship, I know. I will talk about this later in a separate post. Now, let's talk about my internship in a startup company which I did simply because I didn't know what to do after AAS Pre-Departure Training. It's my last 2 weeks now. Surprisingly, this internship has given me a lot, beyond my expectation. 

Waste4Change is a startup company focusing in waste management. They provide a range of services from company/office waste collection, event waste management, waste-related-CSR execution, to waste related studies. Some of their clients are The Body Shop (Bring Back Our Bottle program), Gojek, DBS, Bank Mandiri, BLP Beauty, Dinas Lingkungan Hidup DKI Jakarta, and so many more.

I've known this company for quite long time but it was only some time ago that I followed their instagram from my online shop account. Yes! It is now related. My concern in plastic thingy was triggered by Natgeo magazine "Planet or Plastic?" edition which made me open my stainless straw online shop in instagram where I follow some eco-conscious accounts including Waste4Change. One day when I was looking for an internship, they posted the opening for some internship positions. I directly sent my application for Strategic Service Intern and here I am now.

My first day was a little bit confusing. I used to work in a manufacturing company which working time is very rigid. My previous plant, like most factories, has siren to indicate work time, break and off time while in Waste4Change my working time is literally flexible. I only need to meet my bosses couple times a week only if they need to see me. 

Back to the first day, they took us (me and Dhani, the other intern) to Waste4Change facilities. Those are the Material Recovery Facility and Composting Facility. Adin and Adhit (my bosses) explained more detail about what the company do and how they do it. In that facility, Waste4Change re-sorted the materials from their clients' offices. I noticed that the sorting was very detail, not only they sort it based on type of the materials but they also group it based on its colour! I saw the cups of coffee for Nescafe Dolce Gusto were stacked based on their colour. Some workers also sorted plastic waste from buckets of still-mixed-waste. Adin explained that sorting is crucial to ensure that only the residue goes to the landfill while other recoverable materials can go through further cycle such as recycling or composting so they can achieve circular economy.
Waste Sorting in W4C's Facility
After the tour, we started to work in a coffee shop. I didn't know that I can really work in a coffee shop because when I was in uni I always failed in doing my assignments in a coffee shop. Too many distraction. But now I CAN! Wow. At the end of the day, we met the almost full Strategic Service team. Here, once again I was very surprised that the team members can be so open in talking about the obstacles they faced on their projects and how each member responses in helping the other. Really. This team is so fluid and dynamic. I am amazed. Maybe this is because most of the members are so young that they can be so open while in my previous team it was only me and Mba Nidya. So, ya, different culture due to age difference. Hehe.

At the end of my first day, I questioned if the remote working could really work. Well, after two and half months experience, I think this method is a very convenient working method! Thanks to all those online editable documents in onedrive and google drive, whatsapp and skype. Currently I even working from my village in Bali because I no longer stayed in Jakarta. Yes! They allow me to do a fully remote job. Awesome!!
Andhani, Adin, Dwika, Adhit
During my internship, I have a full access to their project reports because my job includes making summary of the reports hehe. The good thing is that I gain a lot of new knowledge and information about waste management all around the country. From the report I just knew that a FMCG company has a real concern about their packaging waste so they conducted a values chain analysis. I also read the reports about efforts in building 3R Disposal Site all around Indonesia. I also ar noticed that some companies did the waste-management thingy just for ceremonial purposes. 

This insights have shifted my perspective about waste. Waste is not always bad, waste is not always the one to blame. Let me tell you a story..

I was so lucky that Adin let me join her project about a feasibility study for a Pyrolysis plant development in one of the provinces in Indonesia. The owner of the project is an international packaging company, they hire a consultant which choose us as their local partner. My job in this short phase of the project was to arrange meetings with the local government. I have to contacted several agencies and even the staff of the vice governor. At the beginning, based on the limited explanation and ppt of that consultant, I thought that this Pyrolisis technology is the key solution for all plastic waste thingy. But later, i read and read again while carefully listening to their presentation to the government agencies and the vice governor. I changed my mind. Yes, pyrolysis might seem promising in tackling the multilayer plastic issue (such as sachet which is usually leaked to the environment while plastic bottle and cup are already have their own recycling market), but based on what I read, it is not economically feasible now. However, the project owner seems to be very ambitious in putting this project into reality. I suddenly think that this might be just the strategy and ego of the project owner because they are the company that produce those packaging. If they can successfully deliver this project as a CSR, they will be able to sell the story to convince the market that actually their plastic is not a problem. That the plastic can be turned back into oil. However, in general, this is not economically feasible. The technology can be very expensive and the dream of solving plastic problem will be just a dream. Do you see what I mean? The project in that province MIGHT be successful because it is fully funded, but in the larger scale, will the other government able to afford that? At the end, the company will be benefited because they can put the image that the problem caused by their product can be tackled while actually the waste problem never really solved.

From the business perspective, I do aware that the company need to do efforts in order to sustain their products. Today, people are more concern about what they consume, therefore this company need to reshape their value that align with customers concern. They innovate using this CSR strategy which in one side is brilliant. They can show their concern of nature while maintaining production and profit. However, is this sustainable? This is the big question that WE must find the solutions.

This project made me really think. What is the ideal solution to this mess that can be beneficial for all parties? What do you think?

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