Baran Gunung. An adobe-walled building without doors stood firm there, but seedy. The giant metal machine kept puffing the white vapour. Non stop. At one side of the machine, a guy crammed tons of garbage into the mouth of the machine. It was fast. Sorrr! At the other side, the solid granules as small as rice were spewed out. The plastic pellets.
“This is the pellet maker,” said Slamet Raharjo (32), not the owner. He is a chief of the operators and technicians. With Otong, his partner, they manage the other 17 workers. Raharjo then explained that to make pellets, the plastics must be prepared.
It is CV Dadi Rejo, hasn’t been a year. There, Raharjo everyday. But before, Raharjo had ever worked in similar ventures in Semarang since 2003. His experience gave him expertise. That made him stay in this kind of job, processing the plastic waste. Raharjo handles the production process, while Otong, handles the raw materials acquisition and make external relationship.
The plastics brought by Otong from landfills were placed outside the building. All of them are high-density polyethylene (HDPE) which are plastic bags or plastic wrappers. “Some of them are picked, and some others are delivered. We have to pay to get them. There’s nothing free nowadays. Even if we don’t have enough capital, they will sell to our competitor,” Raharjo added.
Inside this unfinished building located near Ambarawa, Kabupaten Semarang, the machines worked 10 - 12 hours a day. Two giant main engines were installed there. The first one was plastic shredder machine, and the second one was pellet makers machine. Both of them worked from 07:00 am.
“It takes time to replace the blade shredder and to repair because this machine (plastic shredder) is more vulnerable. There’s no much problem on the other machine,” Raharjo explained about the machine treatment which reducing the working hours automatically.
After entering the giant shredder they called ‘laser’, the plastics would become pieces. Then the machine would automatically forward the pieces to the giant sink beside it. It is an artificial basin of adobe with 2 meters height and 10 meters length. Three large turbines are side by side inside it. Plastics and water were mixed. The turbines stirred them up and finally forwarded them to the dryer machine.
The plastics were dried up on the first dryer machine. Raharjo explained that the way it works is similar with hair dryer with a dynamo so it gives a larger force. Then to large pipe. The pieces were put through blower machine and entering a big pipe with diameter about 25 cm. It’s long enough, serpentine, and tacked on the ceiling. Until finally they entered to the second dryer machine. The pieces then spewed out to a 3 x 3 meters room which one of the side was covered by paranet to make it easy to open and close.
Raharjo and his partner then would come to that room, put the clean pieces in the sack, then saved them. Waited until 9 tons to be processed.
“We processed the white first, and the black afterwards,” Raharjo said.
The 9 tons plastics were brought to one side of the machine. There was a stage with 150 cm height near it to put sacks of plastics. The plastics were queuing to enter the second machine. Pellet maker machine.
A worker crammed the plastics to the machine for hours. Keep cramming. The machine’s body was hot. The white vapour billowed in the room. The pungent odor fulfilled the room. The plastics became highly viscous melt. Through the filter, the plastics released on to an iron container with holes in the bottom. The melty plastic then went out through the hole. Small, elongated and does not break like noodle.
The other worker pulled its end. Dipped in water placed in a small extends tub from iron. This tub is a part from this giant machine. Cooling process.
From the other side of the tub, this solid plastic noodle then dried up. They would through some fabrics to dust before entering the last machine. Cutting machine. This machine will cut off the noodle into pieces as small as rice. To be pellets.
It didn’t stop here. The pellets then wrapped in a sack which each of them is 25 kg. To be sold. “We don’t know much about the selling, we only sell them to Solo. To the distributor which then sell them to buyer. Possibly, they were used to make some plastic bags again, not to make buckets, plastic barrel or other because the kind of plastic is different,” added by Raharjo.
Like the other business, this pellets business also have a lot of competitors. “Though it seems there’s only one or two in Ambarawa and Salatiga, but there are a lot of players in Semarang and Solo,” Raharjo said.
Not to mention the internal constraints. Raharjo should go to Semarang or Solo to get machine spare part if there’s some problem with it. It took one to two hours away. That was if the goods are available, if not, he must book it first which could hamper the sustainability of work. After they got the spare part, Raharjo and other technicians should fix it by theirself.
This job looks noble. Processing the plastic waste. But there’s still people who don’t like it. Like in Salatiga. Raharjo told that there had been similar business closed because there was a problem between the manager and the public. “We also ever got some complaints, but finally, there’s a resident who realize that residual water from plastic laundering is able to make the plants more fertile. Then the other residents followed him, and they can accept the existence of this business here,” said Raharjo remembering.
“For food and family,” said Raharjo, “Like it or not I have to do it. And because it has been a long time, I’ve been comfort here.” With a simple reason, Raharjo, Otong, and other workers have donated their services to reduce plastic waste on this earth.
Written by Deasy Esterina