Indonesia: Exchanging plastic for books
A librarian on the Indonesian island of Java has started a mobile library, lending children books in exchange for trash. It develops their awareness of the environment — and they get to read more at the same time.
Small initiative, big impact
Every weekday, Raden Roro Hendarti loads up her three-wheeler with reading material and drives to the village of Muntang. There she collects trash from the village children, and lends them books in exchange. It's a small initiative that has a big impact, making children in the region more aware of their environment. Plastic waste is a major problem in Indonesia, especially in remote rural areas.
People rush over as soon as she arrives. A lot of children are already waiting, lining up to get one of her coveted books. These are handed out in exchange for plastic cups, bags, and other trash, which Raden collects on her three-wheeler. She then brings it to her colleagues, who sort it and take it to be recycled or sold on.
Kilos of plastic waste
Raden collects around 100 kilograms (220 lbs) of trash like this every week. "To fight climate change and save the Earth, we also need to deal with our waste," she says. Every day the initiator of the "Trash Library" weighs the plastic she has collected, to maintain an overview and keep a record of how much is gathered over time.
The children love the little mobile library. "When there's too much trash, our environment gets dirtier and dirtier, and it's not healthy. That's why we go looking for trash, so we can use it to borrow books," the children say. Even after school, they're still sitting together, browsing through their reading material.
Children's books, not video games
Raden Roro Hendarti is not only happy to be encouraging children to read more. Because of her initiative, they also spend less time playing games online. "Let's establish a culture of learning from an early age to mitigate the damage done by the online world," she says. The problem of children becoming addicted to online gaming has got worse during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Mission to improve literacy
Many schools in Indonesia have been closed for a long time because of the pandemic. This has had serious consequences. A World Bank report warns that more than 80% of young people in Indonesia may be missing out on learning to read to OECD minimum standards. By transporting up to 6,000 books a day in her three-wheeler library, Raden Rodo Hendarti is doing what she can to help.