The Green Opportunity of Green Mussels, Jakarta

Written by Resilient Cities Network
Tuesday, 11 July 2023
  • The green mussel industry provides a livelihood for the coastal community of Kalibaru in North Jakarta.
  • There are two sides to this reality: the shells pose an environmental challenge to the city and, as a natural product, they allow for a more sustainable approach to design solutions.
  • This is a good example of building circularity and resilience in the context of climate change.

Kalibaru is one of the most densely populated and poorest districts in Jakarta. It covers an area of 250 ha and is home to 80,000 people from diverse ethnic and cultural backgrounds. Its name refers to the adjacent Kalibaru Port, which was one of the busiest fishing ports in the 1960s and 1970s. Not surprisingly, fishing and green mussel farming are the main activities.

Kalibaru is known for its green mussels, an excellent source of protein and a popular food among Indonesians. Mussels can live in a variety of aquatic conditions, which facilitates their cultivation and since it is not affected by the seasons, it can be productive all year round.

The green mussel industry is labor intensive as it follows an elaborate production process. This includes mussel cultivation, harvesting, processing (precooking, cleaning, deburring, separating), transporting, cooking, selling, and disposing of the shells. Responsibilities are often shared among family members and the owners of the processing stations are men with only primary education, while the workers themselves are mostly women (80%).

The Challenge

As this is a very dynamic economic activity that generates waste on a daily basis, proper waste management has become a major challenge. It is estimated that each green mussel processing stall produces an average of 20 sacks of waste per day, consisting almost entirely of discarded shells. With each bag weighing around 5 kg, the total amount of shell waste produced by the 23 stalls interviewed is approximately 2,380 kg. During harvesting season, this number can double or even triple. This accumulation of waste leads to contamination of coastal fisheries, creates health and sanitation problems that can infect marine life and damage the natural landscape. In addition, shell waste is not accepted at waste transfer stations, leading to the common practice of dumping it at sea. The workers themselves, without proper working conditions, are vulnerable to occupational injuries and diseases.

In a broader scenario, Kalibaru is exposed to regular shocks and stresses such as heavy rains, environmental degradation, and tidal flooding. To date, local communities have explored some options for recycling shell waste, such as cobblestones and handicrafts. However, the economic viability of these earlier pilot ideas remains unclear because they were not embedded in a proper product development plan.

Jakarta’s Solution

Bappeda Jakarta (Development Planning Agency) and Resilient Cities Network are supporting the development of the Kalibaru community. The nature of the challenges allowed for the implementation of several initiatives, mainly dealing with waste and environmental issues, as well as supporting the most vulnerable in the community. After consultation with local leaders, it was agreed that the solution would require the introduction of new business initiatives to process the shell waste.

The co-creation of activities within the Catalyzing City Resilience Solutions (CCRS) program identified the need to strengthen the organizational capacity and business skills of the local SMEs, particularly the women mussel peelers. Together with partners Kota Kita Foundation, Playo, and PPSW Jakarta (Center for Women’s Resource Development), the CCRS pilot started with a series of capacity-building sessions for Cangkring (seashells group) on organizational management and business strategy, especially for the women mussel peelers.

Our Impact

As part of this initiative, five industrial designers were invited to create new products using mussel waste as a base material. This resulted in seven new products: a table lamp, roster, car cap, phone holder, board, decorated bags, and compost. At the end of March 2023, the three best designers: Conture, Greenie and Studio Dapur, were selected based on their ability to design products that absorb mussel waste volume, feasible to produce by the community in Kalibaru, and have more market potential. This was followed by a three-day residency on product design by these three designers with Cangkring.

Through this program, the Cangkring group was able to upgrade and reproduce many of the new products while improving their marketing and management skills. Compared to previous years, Cangkring also received more attention from the local government of North Jakarta. With the support of the North Jakarta Food Security, Maritime Affairs, and Agriculture Department, Cangkring registered as a member of JakPreneur, a facilitation and collaboration platform for Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs) development, backed by the Jakarta Provincial Government. The group received support for quality and strength testing of the paving block stones produced from green mussel shell waste.

Catalyzing Impact

This initiative has secured a grant from our Resilient Community Impact Funds (RCIFunds), a resilience innovation sub-fund seeded by Bank of America. This funding will be used to establish and operate the Kalibaru Hub, designed to address pressing challenges in waste management while fostering entrepreneurship and innovation within the Cangkring group. In partnership with United Cities and Local Government Asia-Pacific (UCLG ASPAC) and Bappeda Jakarta, Kalibaru Hub will serve as a central hub for SMEs, enabling efficient waste recycling and the development of environmentally friendly products. 

With its unique focus on resilience value, RCIFunds exemplifies a holistic and equitable approach to building resilience. This grant is expected to play a crucial role in accelerating the growth of local entrepreneurs in Jakarta by providing initial capital, supporting product development, and facilitating market access for recycled products. This is an exciting ongoing project that is expected to have a positive impact on community resilience, livelihoods, and Jakarta’s environmental issues. Find out more in the press release: https://resilientcitiesnetwork.org/rcifunds-to-award-jakartas-kalibaru-hub/


In Jakarta, Resilient Cities Network is running the Catalyzing City Resilience Solutions program with support from the Citi Foundation to help the local economy recover from the Covid-19 pandemic. This recovery will catalyze urban resilience by empowering and strengthening a selection of critical small and medium enterprise (SMEs) to develop locally relevant solutions.

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