He is the only Indonesian who has been nominated as one of the Top 10 CNN Heroes of 2021.


I Made Janur Yasa, the Balinese founder of Plastic Exchange, has been nominated as one of the Top 10 CNN Heroes of 2021. He becomes the only Indonesian who comes from Bali who enters this prestigious nomination. Well, do you know what he does?

Yasa collects tons of plastic for recycling

Yasa wants to find a way to help people in his community, particularly in Bali, to address the ongoing problem of plastic pollution during the pandemic. When the COVID-19 pandemic struck all of us, including Bali, a tourism destination, more than half of Bali's economic revenue stems from tourism, employing hundreds of thousands of Balinese people in the industry. 

Many moved back to their home villages. Like written on CNN, with more people returning to the villages, more trash piled up. With so many people out of work, they were also going hungry.

"I said to myself, I got to do something about this. I got to thinking, inside the challenge there is an opportunity," said Made Janur Yasa, a vegan restaurant owner in the town of Ubud, to CNN.

So, he started a program where local villagers could exchange plastic for rice -- a barter system that would benefit the environment and empower the local people. Residents can turn in plastic trash they collected in exchange for the main food staple.


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In May 2020, he hosted the first exchange in the village where he was born and raised. It was a success, and the concept quickly spread to other villages across Bali. His non-profit, Plastic Exchange, was born.

"I thought to myself, if it works in my village, it will work in other places as well," Yasa said. "I realized this thing was getting bigger than I had ever imagined."

The program brings together local Banjars that collect plastic from their homes, streets, rivers, beaches, and surrounding areas.


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Villages hold community exchange events once a month in which residents can bring in plastic to trade in for rice. Yasa says the organization has so far helped feed thousands of families and collected nearly 300 tons of plastic for recycling.

"Teenagers come with a smile. Elderly people are there. Young kids come with their mothers. That's what keeps me going, to see them all excited about it," Yasa said. "They were feeling powerless, and this gives them hope."

Cultural wisdom make Plastic Exchange successful

Yasa tells CNN that people in Bali live in nature. Traditionally, we believe nature has a soul. People do care about the environment. But the plastic pollution in Bali is because of a lack of education and practice. We're trying to change behavior. The only way you can do that is through education. That's how you change people's habits.

My method is showing them an example through action. We educate people on how to separate the plastic. And we also educate people on the dangers of plastic. If it goes into the environment, it pollutes the water, the ocean, and that's not good for the environment. People here come together in a good way. So once people are educated on how to dispose of plastic properly, they want to help and create change.




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