Building the future of Indonesia’s circular laundry industry

Did you ever consider the amount of plastic involved in the laundry industry? Well, in Indonesia, where millions of people make use of laundry services, this amounts up to 1.5 kg of low-quality, single-use plastics per person per year! Plastics are considered a crucial part of the laundry process, producing waste through plastic wrapping, microplastics, and product packaging. This highly contributes to the pile of waste that leaks into the ocean every year!

That is why the Zero Waste Living Lab has joined forces with In.Pact, an international team containing members from the Netherlands, Germany, Italy and Indonesia, who are passionate about sustainability. Chiara, Eva, Antonia, and Maria are design students of the Delft University of Technology, and Bagas is a business graduate from Gadjah Mada University in Yogyakarta. The team is currently on a 3-month mission of developing a solution to reduce the plastic pollution of the laundry industry in Indonesia.

Accelerate the shift to sustainability

Every year over 80,000 tons of single-use plastic packaging is discarded within the laundry industry in Indonesia.

“Our goal is to re-imagine and re-design the way we clean clothes in a regenerative and sustainable manner that reduces the amount of single-use plastics involved in the value chain”.

Team of In.Pact

By the time their three months in Jakarta are over, they aim to have conducted a deep research within the local community that is sufficient to develop a concept that would solve Indonesia’s problem of plastic waste in the laundry industry. After building prototypes and validating this concept, the team will then start running pilot test before the Zero Waste Living Lab takes over and potentially transforms it into an impactful social enterprise.

The research conducted by the team is based on deeply understanding the local point of view, which is why, for the past month, the team has been going into laundry shops in Jakarta. These are where the smooth flow of items going through big rooms filled with washing machines, drying racks, ironing tables, and the unforgettable scent of freshly cleaned clothes attract millions. Speaking to the owners, workers, and customers, allowed the team to collect insights on their typical behaviours, as well as how they perceive the plastic problem in relation to the industry, straight from the source. 

Maria and Bagas learning how to fold platic as interns at Andrie Laundry Shop

Plastics are integral part of laundry industry

In addition, the team also paid a visit to Bantar Gebang, Southeast Asia’s biggest landfill located in Bekasi, just outside of Jakarta. The takeaways are unimpressive, as most of the waste in Indonesia is left unmanaged, and out of 70% of the waste that is left in landfills, 40% is made up of plastic. While 7,000 tons of waste added to the pile each day, 10% ending up in waterways, and only 7.5% is being recycled. This opened their eyes into embarking on a mission to reduce the amount of plastics going into the pile. From an interview with Resa, the “Princess of the dump” who grew up by the landfill, the team concluded that the biggest problem is that not everyone is concerned about the plastics problem, as it turned out to be seen as “the poor people’s problem”. Taking things back to the laundry industry, plastics as an integral part of the process can highly contribute to the ever-growing mountain of waste in Bantar Gebang!

So how do we implement a plastic-free laundry service and encourage everyone to personally contribute? The insights that have been collected so far show that convenience and saving time is important for Indonesians in Jakarta. This is mainly due to the busy traffic that occupies the streets every day, making it a chore to even leave the house. These circumstances provided opportunities for companies like Gojek, a company which many Indonesians revolve their lives around. Gojek is an application based service provider, which allows customers to order food, groceries, house cleaning, and among many more, laundry services, straight from the comfort of their home. Another important insight is that laundry takes time to do at home, and can also take days in laundry service centers due to the relatively high demand – this provides the opportunity to come up with something that not only provides convenience, but also saves time.

Innovating for sustainable future

But how do we make sure the amount of waste is minimized in the process? What if plastic is not perceived as a problem by the laundry shops? People seem to be more concerned with the cost of effort and time involved in doing laundry, and not the problem of plastic waste itself. For service providers and their customers, plastic is seen as a great material that is easily accessible and is affordable. Other than that, it keeps the clothes neatly folded and protected from damage during the laundry process, as well as transport. All in all, the benefits of using plastic relatively outweigh its consequences when it comes to the laundry industry.

That is why team In.Pact is working on a great alternative that still meets the needs of the shop owners. To make it sustainable, the team has been testing a new refill system that would replace single-use plastics that are used for detergents. They currently have a ready design to develop a high-fidelity prototype to pilot in the near future. The team believes that the steady growth of the zero waste movement in Indonesia can really help with supporting the application of their new concept. With the help of social media and consistent information sharing, the community has a great potential to grow even more effective in the future.

The team has worked together to brainstorm and collect sufficient information to come up with a desirable, feasible and viable refill model in the form of a dispenser for detergents, in order to cater to the needs of their target customers in Indonesia. Bagas plays an important role of bridging the other team members to citizens in Jakarta, as the language barrier is one of the biggest challenges of reaching out to people in the city. 

Would you like to keep up with their progress? Check out their website ( and Instagram (@in.pact.tudelft) to find out more!

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