If you happen to visit Bandung Institute of Technology (ITB) as I did a few months ago, you would probably come across dual waste containers more or less similar to the illustration presented in this post. You may also find these waste containers in other academic institutions but I suppose they are rather rarely seen outside the academic institutions. The purpose of the separation is obvious, it is to separate the “ecofriendly” wastes from the ones which are not. Of course, for some individuals especially the ones who are less educated it is not always easy to decide on the container into which they should throw away their scraps. that’s why it is understood why these dual containers are mostly found in academic institutions. For those who do not know the “ecofriendly” wastes, they are wastes which are readily broken down by microorganisms mostly by bacteria. The ecofriendly wastes must go to the “sampah organik” or organic waste container and the ones which are not must go to “sampah anorganik” or inorganic waste container.
Of course, this separation is made with good intention, no doubt about it. But let’s see if terms adopted here “organik” and “anorganik” are appropriate for this case. If you look for the word “organic” in the dictionary, the definition should read more or less like “Of, relating to, or derived from living organisms”. This definition should make the rule of thumb look easier when you meet these dual containers and you happen to throw away a scrap. Things like mandarin or banana peels go to the organic container while all plastics go to the inorganic container. Wait a sec! Plastics go to the inorganic container?? Are you not mistaken? If you look for the information of plastic in Wikipedia, the first information obtained will be “A plastic material is any of the wide range of synthetic and semi-synthetic organic amorphous solid…..etc.” Now how can you come to a conclusion that plastics must go to the inorganic container? Okay…. if you still think that it is still not good enough for you to acknowledge plastics as organic wastes let me tell you this that most plastics are derived from crude oil! And crude oil as you learned it at the primary school decades back is formed from prehistoric living microorganisms. The accumulated fossilised microorganisms underwent the überslow evolution that take millions of years to become crude oil that we know today. So it is beyond doubt that plastics are organic!!
On reading this post now you realise why the adoption of the terms “organik” and “anorganik” are incorrect for this case. In my humble opinion they should be replaced by the terms “biodegradable” and “non-biodegradable” or maybe in Bahasa Indonesia the terms “ramah lingkugan” and “tak ramah lingkungan” will do.