Inspirational and positive news has come for Bali at the end of October 2021, with CNN announcing that I Made Janur Yasa, the Balinese founder of Plastic Exchange, has been nominated as one of the Top 10 CNN Heroes of 2021.
In the year and a half the pandemic has persisted, Bali’s almost decimated tourist economy has had had far-reaching financial and social effects on the resident population. It is, however, during times of difficulty when good souls shine bright. The silver lining of the pandemic has been witnessing the wholehearted efforts of individuals and organisations who have stepped up to support and help the, often newly, vulnerable communities, even when faced with their own difficulties.
From food donations to education programs, the list of goodwill initiatives on the island has been heartwarming to say the least; in reality many would have suffered gravely without such community efforts.
One creative initiative changed the dynamic. Made Janur Yasa is a restaurateur, a partner in the unique vegan restaurant Moksa in Ubud. In May 2020, as Bali was in the depths of the pandemic lull, Janur began a program called Plastic for Rice, a barter system that encouraged locals to trade in collected plastic for rice. In an interview with NOW! Bali when the program started, he says that he remembered how villagers used to barter in the early days, rice for sea salt, farm to sea. He said that this gave people spirit, making sure that people don’t get used to receiving without working.
Through this plastic for rice system, Janur provided a double solution: cleaning littered plastic in the environment; as well as providing much-needed sustenance to those in need, especially in rural areas.
The program started in Banjar Jangkahan and Banjar Penulisan, Batuaji Village, Tabanan, the regency where Janur comes from. It was set up as prototype, a system to be replicated in other villages… and it was.
Three months later, Plastic for Rice became Plastic Exchange. In that time, as reported in August 2020, the movement had spread to 44 banjars and 1,345 households.
But beyond that it had evolved beyond a simple ‘system’, and became a movement. It was adopted by other charitable organisations as a solution to provide food fairly in rural communities; it became a vehicle for environmental education, to teach the effects of plastic but also the value of waste. It has allowed people to feel empowered, useful, independent. It has seen new leaders being born.
Today, Plastic Exchange is found in over 200 villages across Bali, has collected 50.000+ kg of plastic and distributed 55.000+ kg of rice.
Through these significant achievements, fuelled by the community, spread like wildfire, I Made Janur Yasa has been nominated as one of the Top Ten CNN Heroes of 2021. A well-deserved honour!
Janur is the second Bali-based hero to be nominated, with Ibu Robin Lim of the Bumi Sehat Foundation nominated as CNN Hero of the Year in 2011 for her work in midwifery across Indonesia. 10 years later, and its time for another Bali hero!
These heroes are found all over the world, nominated by the CNN audience. Each Top Ten hero will receive a $10.000 prize to continue their work. But it’s not over!
With your help, Plastic Exchange can receive an additional $100.000 from CNN if I Made Janur Yasa is voted as ‘Hero of the Year’. All you have to do is vote for him online through the CNN Heroes Page. With this, we can see the Plastic Exchange program grow even further. You can vote everyday until 7 December 2021.
The winner of the title, Hero of the Year, will be announced at the ‘15th annual CNN Heroes All-Star Tribute’ on 12 December 2021.
Congratulations to I Made Janur Yasa for this global recognition, and for showing the world the amazing positive community work that is happening here in Bali.