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by Amalia Widyasningrum

Repurposing used cooking oil, why not?

A group of youth in Indonesia conducted an online workshop to demonstrate how to transform used cooking oil into valuable goods during the pandemic that helps us all to fight against COVID-19, yes, I'm talking about soap!

The world is threatened by the outbreak of COVID-19 that initially started in Wuhan, Hubei, China in December 2019. Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market is identified as a possible starting point of the origin COVID-19 with animal to human transmission. COVID-19 is believed to be airborne transmission as well as human-to-human transmission through direct contact with the infected patients, indirect contact with contaminated surfaces and respiratory droplets. The invisible and mild symptoms did not stop people from continuing their daily routines of activities. These people contribute to the rapid dissemination of COVID-19 in community which latter vastly distributed worldwide. Total case of COVID-19 in Indonesia as of 31 May 2020 is stood at 25,773 (Worldometers), causing several industries ranging from airlines and hotels to retail and food and beverages, even education huge losses. The rapid spread of COVID-19 in Indonesia is forcing some employees and students to work as well as study from home in order to practice social distancing in flattening the curve. Consequently, millions of Indonesians are spending a lot more time in their homes than they used to, inducing Indonesians to turn into their kitchens while self-quarantined not only for survival purposes due to the limited number of open restaurants, but also for comfort as well as entertainment.

However, the quarantine cooking trend can be double edged sword for environment. Cooking may be a tool to reduce the stress of social isolation and loneliness amid COVID-19 pandemic. On the other hand, this resulting in a drastic increase in food and kitchen waste, used cooking oil for instance. The cheap and versatile palm oil is widely used as cooking oil in Indonesia, as Indonesia accounts for 56% world's supply of palm oil. It is ironical that while Indonesian foods and snacks use a lot of oil such as crispy Lumpia, Tempe, Cassava and Tofu, as well as fried bananas, while majority of Indonesians usually throw away their used cooking oil in the sewer or drain. The improper disposal of used cooking oil (UCO) is caused by the lack of awareness among Indonesians about the serious consequences that UCO poses for the environment. The dumping and disposal of UCO into drains or sewer will choke and clogs the municipal sewers. Further, when UCO reaches the natural water reserves, it becomes a threat of contamination on aquatic ecosystem by coating aquatic life with oily layers, reducing their ability to breathe, thus resulting to death.

As the solution, our organization consists of 13 youth from 8 different regions committed in educating Indonesian youth and women to adopt zero waste lifestyle. Our activities are ranging from providing workshops, producing and selling eco-friendly beauty products by empowering lower class women during the production process. On 27 may 2020, we initiated an online workshop and its demonstration regarding how to make soap from used cooking oil as a response to the kitchen waste problem as well as the need of soap during COVID-19 pandemic. 60 people across the country participated in the online workshop while showing their enthusiasm in protecting the environment, aside from keeping themselves sane during the quarantine which is done by cooking. At the end of the session, we gave our natural lip balm and reusable cotton pads to two lucky participants, as an encouragement in switching to green beauty products as we are aware that conventional ones are destroying the environment due to its chemicals. It is very imperative to take care of ourselves, but we need to take care the health of our environment too. Therefore, as youth, we realized that we need to dedicate attempts towards this as far as disposal of used cooking oil is concerned. I hope my "echo" is able to alter the mindset of Indonesian youth and women to lead an ecofriendly life for the sake of our planet's future. By sharing my story on GrIStuF from ego to echo online edition, I hope I will be able to inspire others to make a small contribution towards their surroundings in making a difference during this pandemic. We are in this together and we will get through this together.


You can find the organization using the info below, make sure to check it out and support them!

Name: Low Waste for Beginners

Instagram: @lowwasteforbeginners


Saya // Thu, 11th June 2020, 13:11 GMT+0200
"Wow! I love it!! What a great idea."
Sania // Thu, 11th June 2020, 13:32 GMT+0200
"This is so great! "
Ana Beatriz // Thu, 11th June 2020, 18:18 GMT+0200
"What an amazing project!! It is so important to empower lower class women, especially during this time, because a lot of them are really struggling to sustain themselves due to the pandemic."