3R– reduce, reuse, recycle

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Main actors

City Government, Private Sector, Community / Citizen Group

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Project area

Whole City/Administrative Region

Icons use case study duration


Ongoing since 2014/05

Public, private and citizen participation in local waste management solutions.

In 2001, solid waste generation peaked at 2,000 tonnes per day in Surabaya and the closure of one of the city’s landfills resulted in waste being piled on the streets. Subsequently, the waste issue began to attract wider community interest and was taken more seriously. The city government held discussions on how to implement large-scale and innovative waste management processes and how to involve as many people as possible through community initiatives.

In response to these discussions and with the support of a local NGO and the Corporate Social Responsibility Program, an informal settlement was selected to pilot a waste management program based on the 3R principles. Environment friendly ways of waste disposal were introduced, composting at different scales from home to neighbourhood, urban farming and wastewater treatment. As other informal settlements intend to learn from the successful pilot, "green facilitators" and "green cadres" have been trained by the city government.

Sustainable Development Goals

Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages
Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable
Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns
Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts

Guangzhou Award

This project was shortlisted for the 'Guangzhou Award' in 2018.

Surabaya, Indonesia

Size and population development
2011: 2,787,000; 1990: 2,467,000; 2025: 3,634,000, 2010-2015: +1.13% / year

Population composition
Main religion: Islam. Important chinese community (25%)

Main functions
centre of regional economy in eastern Indonesia

Main industries / business
manufacturing, exports, tourism

Political structure
kota (municipality) governed by a walikota (mayor) and a municipal assembly

Administrative structure
31 districts (kecamatan)

Surabaya is the capital of the East Java Province and one of largest cities in Indonesia. The city has a population of 3 million and the metropolitan area of Greater Surabaya is recorded as 10 million.  Surabaya also struggles with a daytime population nearly double of the night-time population. The 3R program has been implemented as a strategy by the Surabaya city government to ensure a liveable city for all citizens and the primary goal of the initiative is to adhere to the stipulations of environmental law.

In the previous system, waste collection and disposal was carried out using a two-tier system:

  1. Individual households take their waste from home to the transfer depot.
  2. The government transfers the waste from the transfer depot to the final disposal site and charges citizens for the waste treatment.  

Surabaya is at the forefront of innovating waste management in Indonesia, a special initiative has been developed, from waste bank to the 3R transition waste depots.

  • The main activity of the bank is buying and selling selected non-organic waste which is used as raw material for caps, bags, handicrafts, etc. Waste banks capture the economic value of waste and are established in neighbourhoods, and both public and private institutions.
  • To improve the performance of the waste depots, Surabaya worked with Kitakyushu City Government (Japan) and built a super depot where waste is separated and sold to waste collectors based on the 3R principles. The waste depot manages waste in a more effective, efficient, and hygienic way than the conventional waste bank run by the community.

Both innovations rely on waste selection, and attention to plastics was given priority: The most unique innovation of the program is the use of plastic water bottle and cups as payment for bus rides. This has enormous social and economic impact while improving the environmental quality.

The programme involved many parties. The city government was responsible for planning and coordination, leaving other tasks to citizens, from school children to women’s groups, NGOs waste collectors and factories that recycle plastic waste. The project has also created substantial work opportunities for the informal sector and third parties.

The 3R program is one of the action plans of the Department of Cleanliness and Green Open Space and is funded from their annual budget. However, city government funding is limited to the main urban waste disposal, technical support and overall management of the project. The 3R program, local environmental work as well as collecting and selling plastic waste are managed by the community and private sector, without any financial support from the city government. Thus, the role of the community is fundamental to the success of the 3R program.

The 3R program has achieved positive changes including:

The gradual participation of citizens: the number of environment cadres increased from 29,512 in 2014 to 30,240 in 2015, and the number of active waste banks increased to 296 in 2017 from 220 in 2016 with 15,719 customers.

The greatest impact of the 3R program is the improvement in quality of life for citizens through the improvement of clean and healthy lifestyles (from 70.67% households in 2015 to 75.07% households in 2016) as well as the improvement of air quality index (from 89.57 in 2016 to 90.26 in 2017).

Formal indicators stated in the Surabaya Medium-Term Development Plan to assess the impact of the implementation of the 3R program is Index of the Quality of the Environment and Waste (IQEW). It measures weighted average of solid waste index, water pollution index, air pollution index, and green cover index. At the end of each fiscal year, Surabaya city government delivers an accountability report that lists achievements for the past year. IQEW in 2017 is 64.86, with an increase of 2.77 from 2016. 

The Surabaya city government implemented a new and innovative way for citizens to pay for bus fares by using empty plastic bottles.

The 3R program has received international recognition, most recently a Special Mention in Lee Kuan Yew City Prize 2018 along with Kazan, Russia; Hamburg, Germany; and Tokyo, Japan and was short listed for the 2018 Guangzhou Award.

While the implementation of the 3R program has not met with public resistance, marketing of the initiative is crucial and requires significant effort. Surabaya city government is committed to overcoming all obstacles and has implemented workshops to educate citizens and local businesses to raise people's awareness of the 3R principles and waste sorting.

Many civil-society groups visit Surabaya to study the waste innovations the city has implemented; the most frequent request is to view programs that deal with the environment and smart city technology. The management tool is simple and cost effective so that it can easily be transferred to other cities.

The 3R program has been adopted and implemented in other towns and cities throughout Indonesia.

Guangzhou Award for Urban Innovation, Public Participatory in 3R Waste Management for Better Surabaya:

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Guangzhou Award
Guangzhou, China

Guangzhou Award

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