Circularity in action: circular innovations in Indonesia

In the vibrant urban landscape of Jakarta, Indonesia, two socially conscious enterprises, Sampangan and Plépah, are leading the charge toward sustainability and a circular economy. Both integral members of Impact Hub Jakarta’s community and recipients of recognition through the Accelerate2030 Programme, these enterprises blend traditional wisdom with cutting-edge technology to address environmental challenges.

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At the heart of the CirculUP! project lies a compelling mission – to spotlight and celebrate pioneering entrepreneurs within the Impact Hub Network, who exemplify the principles of the circular economy. By sharing their journeys, our goal is to boost awareness and promote the adoption of a circular economy in Armenia, catalysing a transformative shift toward sustainability.

In the bustling city of Jakarta, Indonesia, two remarkable social enterprises are carving a path towards sustainability and the circular economy. While Sampangan and Plépah differ in their approaches, they share a common dedication to principles that prioritise the environment and the well-being of local communities. 


Both these enterprises are integral parts of Impact Hub Jakarta‘s community of Impact Makers. Furthermore, they have earned recognition through the Accelerate2030 Programme, a prestigious initiative by Impact Hub Geneva and the UNDP. Sampangan made its mark in 2019, while Plépah followed suit in 2021. 


Sampangan, a waste-to-carbon tech company, ingeniously processes various types of solid waste, including organic, inorganic, electronic, toxic, dry, or humid waste. The result is a sustainable conversion into organic outputs such as carbon, steam, and more. 


Plépah, on the other hand, leverages agricultural waste to create alternative food packaging. By combining age-old farming practices with innovative solutions, they not only contribute to waste reduction but also provide local communities with a sustainable source of income.


Sampangan‘s story unfolds as a compelling narrative of innovation, collaboration, and a commitment to combating the waste problem. Founded by the dynamic Father-Son duo, Dr. Ishenny – a scientist and inventor – and his son, Muhamad Fauzal Rizky, an ex-banker, Sampangan’s journey is as unique and captivating as the solution they bring to the table.


The roots of Sampangan trace back to Langsat, a small town in Aceh Province, devastated by the 2004 Tsunami. Dr. Ishenny, moved his family to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, where he became a University Professor, ensuring that all his children, including Fauzal, completed their college education.


Following his graduation, Fauzal ventured to Jakarta to pursue a career in banking, while his father embarked on a mission to develop inventions aimed at addressing the waste problem. Fate intervened when Fauzal, driven by curiosity, visited Bantar Gebang, Southeast Asia’s largest landfill where Jakarta’s waste converges. The sheer scale of the landfill – 15-story tall trash mountains spanning an area equivalent to 200 football fields and receiving a staggering 7,500 tons of waste daily – left an indelible mark on him.


The revelation at Bantar Gebang fueled Fauzal’s realisation of the pressing need for improved waste management solutions in Indonesia. It was at this juncture that the two worlds collided – Dr. Ishenny’s inventive prowess met Fauzal’s financial acumen. The synergy resulted in the creation of the “Magic Box,” a revolutionary waste processing machine designed to tackle the waste crisis.

In 2021, Sampangan garnered acclaim as a finalist in the prestigious Accelerate2030 programme in Geneva. During a networking session, Sampangan found a kindred spirit in Solubio from Brazil, marking the beginning of an international collaboration to convert waste into 100% organic fertiliser. This not only showcased Sampangan’s global impact but also highlighted the potential for cross-border cooperation in addressing environmental challenges.


Sampangan’s “Magic Box” operates as a modular system utilising heat radiation with low electricity consumption and zero emissions. Operating at temperatures between 100 to 400 degrees Celsius – significantly lower than traditional processes’ requirements – the carbonised technology transforms waste into solid activated carbon, liquid carbon, and liquid smoke.


Sampangan’s commitment to a circular economy is evident through the utilisation of waste processing outputs in agriculture, healthcare, and construction industries. The versatility of the “Magic Box” positions Sampangan as a catalyst for positive change, catering to municipal governments, the waste industry, and consumer brands.


In 2019, Plépah emerged as a response to the growing concern of founders, Product Designer Rengkuh Mahandaru and Almira Zulfikar, witnessing the escalating tide of food packaging waste plaguing Indonesian urban areas. The urgency of their mission gained even greater significance during the pandemic years of 2020-2022 when the surge in food deliveries exacerbated the environmental impact of single-use plastics and styrofoam, further contributing to landfill woes.


Fueled by frustration and a shared commitment to positive change, Plépah set out to redefine the narrative surrounding food packaging. Utilising design the founders embarked on a journey that seamlessly merged creativity, innovation, and community empowerment to forge sustainable, inclusive, and circular solutions.


As Plépah delved deeper into the complexities of the issue, they were joined by a dedicated team of researchers and community development experts. This collaborative effort laid the groundwork for Plépah as a pilot project, marking the inception of a groundbreaking initiative aimed at transforming agricultural waste into eco-friendly packaging solutions.

Plépah’s commitment to sustainability extends beyond the environmental realm to encompass social empowerment. Plépah’s initial focus centred on utilising Areca palm leaf sheath waste. Collaborating closely with local producers, they pioneered the design and production of carbon-neutral and biodegradable packages tailored for the food and cosmetics industries. This innovative use of agricultural waste not only addressed the environmental impact of conventional packaging materials but also presented a viable circular alternative.


Plépah’s commitment to sustainability extends beyond the environmental realm to encompass social empowerment. By providing a workplace with flexible working hours, the organisation empowers women, offering them opportunities to participate in the workforce on their own terms. Additionally, Plépah extends learning and job opportunities to local youth interested in innovative design, fostering a new generation of environmentally conscious leaders.


Plépah’s endeavours have translated into tangible change in Banyuasin, Jambi Province, Sumatra. Collaborating with around 1,000 smallholder farmer families and unskilled households, Plépah has successfully created a new source of income for these communities. Serving as material collectors and packaging producers, these individuals contribute to a circular economy, ensuring that waste materials are repurposed into valuable resources.

Together, Sampangan and Plépah demonstrate the transformative potential when businesses prioritise sustainability, innovation, and community engagement. Their stories serve as tangible examples for the CirculUP! Project to envision a future where a circular approach can bring about a more sustainable and inclusive future for both the environment and society.


This article is presented in collaboration with Impact Hub Jakarta.


The CirculUP! project in Armenia is a transformative initiative spearheaded by the collaborative efforts of the Impact Hub Network, Impact Hub Yerevan, and the Environment and Health NGO, with support from the European Union in Armenia

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