Indonesia's Spider-Man puts new spin on picking up trash

"Spider-Man" Rudi Hartono channelling a famous quote in the superhero's comics - with great power comes great responsibility - by collecting rubbish at a beach in Pare-Pare, South Sulawesi. Before he hit on the idea of wearing the costume, he did not
"Spider-Man" Rudi Hartono channelling a famous quote in the superhero's comics - with great power comes great responsibility - by collecting rubbish at a beach in Pare-Pare, South Sulawesi. Before he hit on the idea of wearing the costume, he did not attract as much attention to his cause. PHOTO: REUTERS

PAREPARE (Indonesia) • Indonesian cafe worker Rudi Hartono struggled to persuade people in his coastal community of Parepare to follow his example and pick up rubbish strewn on the streets and beaches - until he dressed up as Spider-Man.

"At first, I did the same activity without wearing this costume and it did not attract the public's attention to help in picking up trash," said Mr Hartono, 36, who was in a red and blue Spider-Man costume.

"After wearing this costume, the response from the public was extraordinary."

Many parts of Indonesia suffer from having little in the way of organised public services to deal with trash, with plastic waste often ending up in rivers or in the oceans.

Indonesia, the world's fourth most populous country, generates 3.2 million tonnes a year of plastic waste, with nearly half ending up in the sea, according to a 2015 study in the journal Science.

Mr Hartono usually collects waste as Spider-Man before his work at the cafe begins at 7 pm and his efforts have helped put a spotlight on the waste issue nationally.

He has been interviewed by newspapers and appeared on television chat shows dressed in his superhero costume to explain his motivation.

Initially, he said, he had bought the Spider-Man outfit simply to amuse his nephew, before others in his town of 142,000 people in southwest Sulawesi took notice.

Indonesia, an archipelago of more than 17,000 islands, is estimated to be the world's second-largest producer of plastic pollutants in the oceans after China, the study added.

Mr Hartono said he hoped the government would throw more weight behind efforts to clean up trash and tighten rules on waste management, including on single-use plastic bags.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 12, 2020, with the headline 'Indonesia's Spider-Man puts new spin on picking up trash'. Print Edition | Subscribe