Paying With Plastic
Bloomberg Businessweek|November 04, 2019
A woman collects plastic on Sanur Beach to supplement her income
Sheridan Prasso

Nyoman Dartini used plastic to pay for temple offerings she made for a summer full moon celebration on the Indonesian island of Bali. She plans to use plastic again to buy food and make more offerings during Galungan, a Hindu celebration marking the victory of good over evil.

Not plastic as in a credit card, but the bottles she collects from her job as a sweeper at a market in Denpasar. She brings them to a collection center operated by Plastic Bank, which tallies her deposits and sends her texts updating her balance. “My salary is not enough,” says the 60-year-old, speaking cheerfully about the extra 100,000 rupiah (about $7) she averages every month. The money supplements her own wages as well as those from her husband’s construction work and their son’s job in hotel housekeeping. “If I didn’t have this money, we would have to take out loans.”

People the world over have been collecting plastic and selling it to recyclers for decades. But the notion of turning waste into a means of financial enfranchisement is a big new idea in economic development circles. Plastic Bank collectors earn the highest rate for bottles in their local markets, plus bonuses. And they can store value at the bank, rather than cashing out daily. Environmentalists are pleased, too. Motivated collectors pick up more plastic, which has the potential to boost the dismal rate of plastic recycling.

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