Another Bali-based expert who was involved in the early days of Temesi Recycling was Sean Nino. Not only did he work on the quality assurance system, but he created a trusted Temesi compost brand, as well as developed a marketing strategy.
As assistant manager for the Temesi project in 2010, Sean was also co-founder of Eco-Mantra, which has been building a framework to define Bali´s local ecological carrying capacity.
He believes that Temesi Recycling currently provides the most feasible waste management process in Indonesia.
Not only is it in line with current demographics in Indonesian communities, but it reduces CO2, it utilises organics and monetises the waste stream in a way that ensures an ongoing operation.
Sean explains that the challenge for most waste systems is that organics are processed at a loss. The revenue derived from selling common organic products, such as compost, is simply not enough to cover the costs of production. This is often because comparable chemical fertilisers are subsidised by as much as 70% to 90% in Indonesia, while compost is not.
When soil is regularly nourished with compost it becomes dark, crumbly, and filled with beneficial organisms, minerals, and other nutrients. Plus, it requires less fertiliser than soil that is not enriched regularly with compost.
In fact, the continual use of chemical fertilisers without composting can throw a soil’s chemistry out of balance, discouraging microbe growth. This ultimately depletes the vitality of agricultural land and requires continuously increasing chemical inputs.
Even if chemical fertiliser and organic compost production were on a level playing field economically, potential compost buyers are also often fearful of potential contamination of the food chain from chemicals, heavy metals, or other harmful elements when waste material is not sorted well at its source.
David Kuper’s Swiss network of leaders included friends from South Pole—a Swiss-based carbon finance consultancy—which had been part of developing the “Gold Standard” for carbon credit verification.
Temesi Recycling became the first Indonesian organisation to complete the Kyoto Protocol’s Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) process, allowing it to sell carbon offsets from composting and create an invaluable additional revenue stream to subsidise its compost operations.
Sean explains how it works:
Temesi processes roughly 30 to 40 tons of organic waste per day (10,000 tons per year). Its compost sales of Rp 1,000/kg ($0.07/kg) covered only a third of their operational costs. To resolve this economic constraint, Temesi applied for grants that allowed it to survive through the CDM certification process (a 40-month process costing USD 50,000).
Once certified, they took out a grant for USD 240,000 from the Swiss-based myclimate foundation that was paid back over time by getting an initial carbon price per credit of USD 22.00 from myclimate and then USD 14.00 until the loan was paid back.
Even though Temesi’s 10 years with CDM concluded on November 3, 2018, they were able to extend their income by getting carbon credits for another five years (at USD 8.50 per credit) through the Gold Standard voluntary market certification, which motivated them to develop better local markets for compost.
Every carbon credit is equal to emissions savings of one tonne of CO2.
Temesi was able to sell around 9,000 credits per year through myclimate. That was enough to cover their remaining operational costs, while also setting aside a small reserve.
Given the stringent CDM requirements, an ISO 9000 quality assurance system and compost-testing protocol were also adopted.
Besides enabling their compost to pass the strict CDM verification criteria, this level of certification builds buyer trust in their compost for any application—including food production for human consumption—and secures a slightly higher price than compost materials lacking a quality guarantee.
While Temesi Recycling is clearly a success story, and has been acknowledged as such by gaining an award from the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), the original vision to build similar industrial-scale organic recycling systems across Indonesia didn’t materialise.
Today—thanks to the dedication and inspiration of environmental champions like David Kuper and Sean Nino—the Temesi Recycling still operates in Bali. Of course, it would help to multiply the benefits of this project and other waste management initiatives, if there was a change in subsidies to make organic composting—and plastic recycling—more attractive as entrepreneurial ventures.