A restaurant owner in Bali is gaining attention for his work to both clean up plastic waste and feed people.
Made Janur Yasa, who runs a vegan restaurant in the town of Ubud, said that when COVID-19 hit the Indonesian island, people who depended on their income from tourists were struggling. At the same time, plastic waste continued to accumulate on beaches.
So Yasa began providing rice in exchange for plastics collected by local residents. The "plastic-for-rice" program began in his hometown. In May 2020, the official Plastic Exchange began and spread to other communities in Bali.
"Villagers will receive the rice according to the type of plastic they bring and the amount that they bring," he told CNN when it profiled him as its weekly CNN Hero. "Each category has a different value. We work with a company that collects this plastic and sends it to Java for proper recycling, because we don't have a recycling plant yet in Bali. We buy rice from the farmers. So, we're really creating this circular economy, supporting the farmers and then we also clean the environment and feed people in that community."
In a fundraising page on the website gofundme.com — where Plastic Exchange is seeking donations to help it grow — Yasa notes the program is now active in 200 villages, helped feed thousands of families and has collected nearly 500 tons of plastic for recycling.