Indonesia is a rapidly developing nation that has a colourful and diverse history. Political instability and the clash of traditional and contemporary culture in the last century have brought with it complex social and environmental issues. Upon arriving in Indonesia we began to notice two separate problems regarding drinking water and waste management.
As a result of industrialization, water from the tap has become contaminated and is not safe to consume, even for locals; everyone must either boil or purchase and consume filtered/bottled water. After witnessing an appalling amount of waste in waterways and on the streets we started to see a correlation between the staggering amount of plastic bottled water being produced by large corporations and the amount of waste, which wasn’t being disposed of properly. We engaged in dialogue with local artists, designers, business owners and students who shared their concern about corporations who had monopolized on commodifying a fundamental human resource and a lack of education about waste management.
Our secondary research led us to discover these alarming statistics:
- Indonesia is the 2nd largest consumer of bottled water in Asia.
- As well as being the 2nd largest marine polluter in the world.
- 100 million of Indonesia’s 249 million people, lack access to safe drinking water.
- Approximate 64 million tons of waste is produced per year, which is mostly dumped into landfill and waterways (2015).
Asking how we can reduce the amount of bottled water consumed within Indonesia is a wicked problem influenced by many political, industrial, cultural and social factors. Our research directed our focus to the consumer (general public) who heavily influences social dynamics and habits.
Danone (Aqua) was the first company to bottle water in Indonesia and over the last 40 odd years it has become a deeply engrained habit for Indonesians to buy Aqua brand bottled water. This has lead to a subconscious consumer belief that water is only clean if it comes from a sealed plastic container. On social media platforms Aqua uses high quality photos of “everyday” people and inviting mealtime settings to market itself as a company that understands and cares about quality of life. This type of imagery reinforces to consumers that it is acceptable to continue to use plastic water bottles in excess.
When we began looking for ways to reduce the use of bottled water we decided to research existing water filtering solutions available to consumers worldwide. Air RahMat is a solution developed specifically for Indonesia by the Centre for Disease Control (CDC). By adding a few drops of the sodium hypochlorite solution to water it becomes safe to drink within 30 minutes. Unfortunately due to poor marketing and education Air RahMat never infiltrated everyday households. Asking around, no locals in Central Java knew of its existence.
Taking it upon ourselves, we attempted to rebrand Air RahMat to appeal to the Indonesian public, encourage critical thinking about water sources, wastage and change consumer habits. As part of the rebrand Air RahMat’s visual identity, instruction manual and bottle were overhauled to compete with the likes of large corporations such as Aqua. The use of visual motifs such as water drops, icons, a water inspired colour palette, children playing and batik patterns ensure that Indonesian’s from varying backgrounds find Air RahMat appealing and understand why it is a culturally important product.
A strategy to reintroduce Air RahMat to the people was also devised. The platform of local markets such as Pasar Papring held in Kelingan would be a suitable place to set up an education and demonstration stall. Locals would be able to take samples, participate in demonstrations and learning sessions in a welcoming environment that provides communal empowerment and support. Village members would economically benefit from using Air RahMat rather than boiling or purchasing water whilst also reducing the amount of plastic waste as a by-product of consumption.
Looking towards the future Air RahMat has the potential to explore mobile and wearable technology allowing it to become more accessible and appealing for contemporary Indonesia.
By Rommany O’Sullivan, Clarence Villanueva, Samson Ossedryver and Adela Yang
Notes from discussion with Singgih Kartono
Notes and images from tour of water springs in Central Java
Notes from interview with local student Diane
Amheka, A. 2015, An overview of current household waste management in Indonesia: development of a new integrated strategy, International Journal of Environment and Waste Management, Vol. 15, No. 1.
John Hopkins Centre for Disease Control, 2007, Air RahMat – FAQ, Aman Tirta, John Hopkins Centre for Disease Control, viewed 23 February 2016, < http://ccp.jhu.edu/documents/Air%20Rahmat%20FAQ.pdf >.
Jong, H. 2015, Indonesia in state of waste emergency, Jakarta Post, Jakarta, viewed 20 February 2016, < http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2015/10/09/indonesia-state-waste-emergency.html#sthash.RSdDUWou.dpuf >.
United States Embassy, 2007, United States Helps Bring Clean Water to Indonesian Families, United States Embassy viewed 23 February 2016, < http://iipdigital.usembassy.gov/st/english/article/2007/01/20070111082114akllennoccm0.3963129.html#axzz45QSqmt4s >.
Von Hasseln, C. 2015, From The Textile Design Lab: Chelsea’s Challenge – “Tidal Beachcomber” Collections, Pattern Observer, viewed 24 February 2016, < http://patternobserver.com/2015/12/22/from-the-textile-design-lab-chelseas-challenge-tidal-beachcomber-collections/ >.
*All images/graphics are original. Contributed by the group members listed above*