Many of you reading will know the project I have been doing since let’s say March this year - working with Pulau Medang from afar, raising money to buy a pyrolysis machine with the intention it will motivate and inspire not only Medang but other remote places in Indonesia to clean up, collect plastic, the machine providing them with a means to turn the plastic into fuel.
It has been a journey with many many ups and downs, and many learnings for me personally. I apologise for no updates over the last few months, as you read you will hopefully understand why and the journey I have travelled and the decisions I have made.
The latest from Medang is :
Filters - The rains have started and they are collecting the water in the filters and the water tank that was bought for them. Rain water tastes amazing there I am told!.
Bins - these were promised to be on the island in September 2019, they will possibly be there next week.
Pyrolysis - the story is detailed below. The summary is that we were lied to from the outset by the guy who made the machine and had to pay more to fix it and it still needs further alteration to make it efficient to run. It will happen.
Schools - a generous person has donated so that they can buy new equipment for the school. They have been able to purchase laptops, a printers, portable Wifi, CPU dell for server, flash drive
and microphone. This is huge as the exams all take place on line and when the wifi is down of course they can’t, if a lap top breaks it means it takes longer for them to complete the process. If they do not take the exams on line, they don’t get their qualifications.
Plastic seminar - Medang organised in December a 3 day up-cycle and plastic education seminar where 25 youth came and made bags out of coffee sachets and the village head will buy them and sell on.
Kepala Desa - the vote is taking place in March this year and we are hoping that Fadyli’s father is voted in again as he is 100% behind the project
Fadyli Environmental course - learnt about composting and environmental issues to help the island.
As you can see, things have changed through 2019 and we did achieve many things - some took a long time and that was a huge learning. Western speed and Indonesian speed and very different!
Regarding the machine, it is in Medang and has been there since September 2019 when it was tested and it worked for a while, at least while Agus was there and then it was put on hold waiting for me to go there in December. My plans changed, so they started to run it again and well… read on
Issue 1 - the stove is just firing hot enough and sustaining the temperature where it needs to be. Takes 4 hours to turn the plastic into crude oil and using too much LPG which has to be bought. The crude oil needs further heating to become petrol, diesel and kerosene requiring more LPG and time. It was showing to be a very inefficient process
Issue 2 - the stove not maintaining the temperature required to complete the next process
Issue 3 - a valve is not opening to let gas/liquid to go from one process to the next.
There are times when I wondered why I started and why I continue…. this was one of them and you’ll read later what decisions I have made.
Other things on the island continue to move on as we wait for the valve to be fixed and a better stove to reduce use of LPG to diesel or kerosene that the machine will produce. The machine is unlikely to make money as we had originally hoped, but that is not the ultimate goal. We just need it to work, run off itself and make fuel….
Read on ..
You are up to date so I will tell you the rest of the story - it’s way more exciting, full of intrigue and twists and turns and villains and heroes who maybe aren’t such heroes after all….
Recap - the machine went to Medang in July with the guy who made it for us - let’s call him AH (asshole). We tried it and well it was a disaster basically… He had to take it back to his workshop to fix it. At that time I had my doubts about him, putting polystyrene in the machine (a big no no which I knew) and which quite simply smelt and melted and hardened. Then he wanted to try again, using more plastic and more gas. It was at that point I said no way and we got the boat to ship it and him on their way to be fixed. The journey from Medang to Semarang is quite a long one I have to tell you, for which AH asked for more money. What were we (I) supposed to do, we needed the machine fixed.
It remained with him…..
Like a child asking “are we there yet?” I keep asking
Is it done yet?
“No I need a xyz and then a vwy and a blah blah blah” … WTF really…. Oh then his wife gave birth, he goes away to work to make the money he needs to fix our machine…
You can probably imagine what I am thinking about now. I’m far away, no idea what is truly happening, being asked for more money - to which the answer was a resounding no. This was one part of my learning - and a big one at that.
A few months passed by and 2 lovely ladies want to make a video of pyrolysis so they head to see AH. This is another story to be told, but due to their presence we found out many things.
In the shortest way I can tell you :
They go to AH, language is an issue so Medang’s main man Amir is flown to meet them there and figure out what is going on.
Well it seems AH had no f*&king clue how to make the machine.
Background : AH and GP (good but crazy professor) used to work together. For whatever reason they stopped (not sure to be honest). AH thought he knew what to do, GP was the brains…
AH did not know what to do… Amir shows up in Semarang, GP somehow comes along to the workshop - which only shows the process and example machines, not but our actual machine….
Where’s our machine?
In his other place…
So they go there and GP goes too and that’s when we find out the truth.
We manage to get the machine away from AH to GP who says he can make it work… more money.
He fixes it and they all head to Medang together. Here I’d like to add that the GP asked if his wife could also go with them - oh at Medang’s (ie my cost…)
You can imagine my reply I’m sure…
They arrive after many to and fros about how we would get the machine there, find the best price to drive it - and ferry and planes and timing… and I am doing this while I am on holiday with my parents.
The learnings around money continued… Honestly, this is my first “real” experience with Indonesians and seeing a little more “behind the scenes” so to speak.
Soooo the machine gets to Medang - huge hoorah. We have to be quiet so AH doesn’t know what is happening, block FaceBook, tell him no we don’t owe him more money (yes he asked) and good bye..
Seriously he said we owed him money still…. I know!!! Can you believe it? I think he owes us money but well that will never happen.
On Medang - we video, we run the machine and a huge relief - works!!!
Which is then when the decision to wait for me was made (not by me but it gave us time to collect more plastic.)
Now in the interim, I started crunching numbers. How much plastic in, possible need to buy it, cost of LPG - initially told the machine produced a bi-product which fuelled the stove (nope) - how much fuel produced each process, how many processes we could run and what could be made…
LOL - I had to laugh but then I got a bit annoyed too, it passed.
The numbers, not good.
They showed that if we could run it everyday at least, at only 2 canisters of LPG and buying all the plastic - and we sold ALL the fuel at Medang current prices and the machine worked optimally…. we would a grand total of 2,475000IDR - from which we needed to pay the operators and save some for repairs…
Now, I am not a financial whizz kid, I’m not a kid…. but even I realised that there as something askew here.
So I asked the GP who by this time is saying he will make more machines to a number of people on a group chat, I asked if anyone else had done the maths and figured out if it would be profitable.
GP said there were requirements…. intriguing.
What were they I asked.
We spoke separate to the group chat.
It seems that to make money from the machine you need a 50Kg and a 20Kg (we have 20Kg which we thought was 30Kg….) and then you can run it continuously.
So “Ibu Lisa, you need to buy a 50Kg machine too”….
Again can you imagine what I am now thinking.
Oh or he has another super efficient machine, can maybe get 9ltrs from 4Kg of plastic, being tested… He will supply this and we only play if it works - but then what use is our 20Kg machine?!?..
I’ll be so honest, all I can think about is the people who generously donated, how we (I??) have let them down, the additional money I have spent on various things, and whether or not I can trust in Indonesians. This passed and I set some wheels in motion and have wisened up a little.
What’s done is done and it is what it is. The machine will get fixed so please those reading who donated it was worth it and it will make a difference - it’s just taking longer than I’d hoped…. We are working on Indonesian timescales (rubber time!!!) and although it seemed a disaster to me at times there is so much good that has come out of the project so far.
My learnings have been many. My time in Medang in July was amazing and I was planning to return. After my time away in September and the issues with the machine and my feelings towards AH, I was ready to walk away from it all. But that is not me and not what I had promised to do. I calmed down, and this is when I realised the following:
I am not, can not and was not trying to ‘save’ Medang - the machine was actually what they had asked for, not my idea - I had never heard of pyrolysis!! The goal became to show pyrolysis was an option for small remote islands and that it can provide them a reason to clean up - ie they get fuel and for cheaper than they were otherwise. And if Medang could do it, then so could other islands. I still believe this but I got too caught up in other changes and timescales and not going with the flow. This : “White people come in to try to save developing countries”, which has gone on for a long time and I was doing it - not my intention and not helpful. Hence I backed off, I closed my bank to them and said Medang needed to figure things out more for themselves.
Also my trip was to Europe and the last few times I have been there, I leave and feel so sad. As much as where I live now is beautiful and I love Medang - it is not my heart’s place. It took a lot of deliberation for me to decide to leave Indonesia this year and not return to Medang and I felt guilty for a while too, feeling I let them down. I know I didn’t and without me on at them, they continue to move forward and make changes which is so great to see. Is it slow - lol yes, but it is their pace not mine.
Can I and do I trust now Indonesians…. mmmm yes and no. No when money is involved and this is what I find both sad and cultural as well. It is not right for me to just give money so they can buy what they need - it needs to come from them too, otherwise it is like a parent doing their child’s homework.
Is it pyrolysis and change still possible ?? 100% yes
Are there lessons we’ve learnt along the way…. YES
Would I do things differently - Yes
Have I thought about walking away and going f*&K it - YES
Will I ?? - NO
What I have been doing is being more chilled - let them work things out and not be the white person who says what to do - not that I was all the time but I have pushed and maybe too hard.
Have I learnt some seriously deep lessons about myself, cultural differences, victim mentality, somewhat manipulative poor me mindsets … YEP
Is my personal bank shut ? Oh my yes…
Am I still raising funds - yes, as they do still need things but I will manage it differently and Medang also need to do more for it too which we are about to work on again.
Have I been upset, ecstatic, disappointed, confused, angry and excited - yes and I continue to be.
I still believe pyrolysis is a way forward - I wish I had known a bit more before I started this and of course I wish we had not been ripped off by AH…. and now have this feeling that even the GP is a little bit manipulative.
But that is life and a learning.
Do I think Westerners need to stop going in to other countries and try to change them - actually yes I do. I honestly think we need to stay out the way, focus on what we can do in our own countries, let them sort their own shit out, let governments do what they are meant to do and if along the way there are casualties, then that is sadly part of the process. If that sounds heartless, I am simply speaking my mind.
I do not wish Medang to ‘change’ and not be who they are or live the lives they want. But maybe they do want to change and live the way Westerners do - they want all the trappings of the Western world, which don’t always bring happiness.
I have found it interesting that many people I know want to eventually live a more simple life with less stuff, yet those who live close to that already, want more and more money and I’m not sure for what gain.
I will continue to work with Medang, do what I can to help them with the machine and give ideas and so on - but I do it now with more open eyes….
Thanks for reading if you made it to the end!!! If you have any experience, thoughts, comments then please share and if you want to donate after all I’ve said, it does all go towards Medang
They continue to move forward themselves and I hope have also learned and gained confidence in what they can achieve.
It has been an huge eye opener and one that I would not trade in. I know there will be good that comes from all this and it is now time for me to be patient… not my strongest attribute - thank you Universe for continuing to assist me in this learning!!.
You can see and read about Medang on our website : www.medang4change.com and they are changing - it simply takes time.
Thanks to those reading who donated already - we would not have managed without you and thank you - we are moving forward. We will continue to work to change and keep the world updated and believe pyrolysis works and that change is possible.
PS If anyone can supply solar panels for the school be great!!!!