Fishing for plastics in a would-be paradise


A SYSTEMIQ team completed a scoping study in Indonesia this summer laying the foundations for the STOP* Project.  The STOP project is a partnership with global plastics producer Borealis and associate companies Borouge and mtm plastics, to accelerate circular waste management solutions for plastic marine debris prevention in South-East Asia. More information:


After instructive and collaborative meetings with government agencies, NGOs and companies in Jakarta, the team headed out to assess the scale of the challenge and start designing potential systemic solutions.  Some 1,400 km east of the capital city lies a vibrant and colourful coastal town called Labuan Bajo, on the island of Flores. Labuan Bajo was recommended as a potential partner city for the STOP Project, particularly as it features on the list of ten locations prioritised by the government for tourism development. It is easy to see why - the city is the launch pad for boat trips to a myriad of beautiful islands and promised sightings of Komodo Dragons. The island of Flores has 4.4 million hectares of marine protection areas (more than 20% of the national total) and scuba divers come from around the world to explore the coral reefs hoping to swim alongside a manta ray.


Rapid growth as a tourist destination and limited waste management infrastructure are among the factors contributing to growing levels of marine litter in this part of Indonesia.  Soon after witnessing the scale of the challenge we had a meeting with local activists and NGOs on a terrace by the ocean.  Convened by the industrious and inspirational hub, Indonesia Waste Platform, the talks ran late into the night as motivated individuals explained how they are seeking to tackle the issue. To give one example, a volunteer named Fia explained the work of an NGO named Trash Hero which cleans beaches and educates through action. 

So inspired by their commitment to plastic free-seas, we decided to join the action.  As the sun began to set on a hot Friday evening a group of volunteers gathered to pick up sandy plastic bags, single-use water cups, used diapers, drinking straws and other items from a harbour side beach strewn with waste. It was Trash Hero’s 99th weekly clean-up of a Labuan Bajo beach, helping reach the milestone of 20 tonnes of waste collected.  The energy, passion and commitment of the volunteers was as visible as their bright yellow t-shirts. Fia lamented that without an integrated waste management system the cleaned beaches will fill with waste once again.  Undeterred by the scale of challenge however, they are taking positive action on the ground, leading by example and saving marine life. That is what makes them heroes!

The SYSTEMIQ team was further inspired to do our part in addressing this global challenge, please follow our progress at


Trash Hero 99th weekly clean up

Cleanup 25/08/2017

  • 33 people
  • 73kg recycling
  • 367kg non-recycling


Data to date

  • 99 Cleanups
  • 1744 people
  • 20,308kg total rubbish collected
  • 39% recycling
  • 61% non-recycling

STOP=Stopping the Tap on Ocean Plastics


In this blog post, SYSTEMIQ Associate David Romain shares a first-hand perspective from the scoping study.