Reducing Indonesia’s Plastic Consumption through a Reuse Packaging Alternative

A cleaning and sanitizing machine can wash up to 40,000 reusable containers a month. Photo credit: Alner.

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Indonesia’s first returnable and reusable packaging system is plugging the plastic waste and altering consumers’ consumption behavior.


Indonesia is among the top Southeast Asian countries with a thriving “sachet economy,” where personal care products, cleaning agents, and food condiments are packed and sold in small plastic packets called sachets. This allows consumers with lower incomes to afford essential products that they might not be able to buy in larger quantities. It also enables brands to reach a broader consumer base and expand their market share. However, this economic phenomenon has an environmental downside. Post-consumption, the multi-layered plastic sachets become challenging to collect and recycle.

An Indonesia-based venture navigates these challenges with an innovative solution that serves people and planet. Alner—short for “alternative container”—offers the essential products in returnable and reusable containers, making them convenient, accessible, and affordable to low-income communities.

In 2022, it won the Asian Development Bank’s Technology Innovation Challenge for Healthy Oceans in the category “Prevent plastic waste to accelerate the transition to a circular economy". With early stage financing provided by ADB’s Innovation Hub ($450,000), Alner implemented its pilot in the Greater Jakarta area in Indonesia from July 2022 to June 2023.

This case study demonstrates how reuse can reduce plastic pollution at source and how local resources can be leveraged while empowering women with economic opportunities.


According to various data sources, Indonesia ranks among the top 10 global plastic polluters.[1][2] The country generates (approximately) 7.8 million tons of plastic waste annually, of which 62.85% is mismanaged due to a poor waste collection system. This means, that a lot of waste does not end up in formally managed landfills but leaks into rivers and open dump sites. Most are burnt, releasing toxic substances into the air. As a result, Indonesia shared second place with India for having their plastic overshoot day on 6 January 2023, the day a country’s plastic waste generation is outnumbering its capacity to manage it.

Among the mismanaged plastic waste, single-use sachets and pouches contribute to about 76% of plastic pollution. According to a 2023 United Nations Environment Programme report, the packaging sector is the world's largest generator of single-use plastic waste. It noted that approximately 36% of all plastics produced are used in packaging for personal care, household cleaning, and food.

In Indonesia, these packaged products are sold in sachets, targeting low-income families. Their small size and multilayered design make it challenging to recycle them. They also have low economic value for recyclers and it takes several days to collect one tonne of sachets, according to the World Economic Forum.


Driven by immediate needs and financial restrictions, low-income families in Indonesia buy essentials in small quantities from local convenience stores known as warungs. Sachets, which offer everyday products in palm-size portions, are readily available at local stores in nearly every neighborhood (even on the remotest islands in the vast island archipelago) and are affordable compared to full-size bottles.

Introducing an alternative packaging solution is difficult when consumers prefer to buy essentials that are convenient to use and dispose of, readily available, and affordable. As transactions are quick, there is also low interaction and little time for conversations or awareness raising. Further, store owners need a reasonable profit margin from selling new alternative solutions.


Alner, one of the ventures under international startup studio Enviu, offers daily essentials, such as soaps, detergents, and spices, in reusable containers. These containers can be sealed after each use, offer a (slightly) larger quantity (from 100 ml onwards), and can be returned when empty. The innovative packaging solution is designed to:

  • eliminate single-use plastics;
  • reduce plastic consumption and production;
  • replace “use and dispose of” with “use and return” system;
  • ensure easy access; and
  • create awareness of plastic pollution.

The business operates on the “deposit and return" model, where consumers get a cash-back or a discount on returning Alner’s empty bottles at designated points of sale. This ensures the packaging stays in usage instead of being disposed of. It also guarantees the returnable packaging system is as affordable as its single-use alternative.       

Alner leverages local convenience stores (warungs) and waste banks (bank sampah) to sell and return. Run by women from local communities, waste banks operate on a similar system of “deposit-and-earn” model to manage waste. Residents deposit recyclable materials (cardboard, empty plastic bottles, and newspapers) at the waste banks and earn a small sum. The profit margin from sales of Alner products is shared with the stores and waste banks, translating into an increase in earnings of around $40–$190 per month (depending on the amount of products sold). Alner also leverages the women leaders’ knowledge and influence in their communities to create awareness of reuse. It also uses e-commerce platforms to retail its products.

The social enterprise works with fast-moving consumer goods companies globally and in Indonesia to facilitate refillable versions of their products.

Customers can return the empty containers to the physical shops, the delivery executive during their next purchase online, or at deposit points with a reverse vending system. Customers get discounts or cashback (ranging from $0.08-0.65 per packaging returned, depending on the size).

The Alner team collects the returned packaging, cleans them using eco-friendly materials, and redistributes them to partner companies and retailers. The brands then refill products and distribute them back to Alner.

Alner’s second app allows points of sale to track business performance indicators, including revenue, profit, customer preferences, and stock maintenance. It also provides information on environmental impact such as amount of single-use plastics avoided. Alner uses QR codes on its products to ensure traceability. A reverse vending machine at the deposit spots enhances the return rate. The venture established an enterprise resource planning system to streamline logistics. Its cleaning and sanitizing machine can wash up to 40,000 containers a month.

ADB financing has significantly bolstered Alner's reselling, cleaning, and reversed logistics operations. It has also enabled the company to enhance its digital platforms and technology for scaling. During ADB’s funding period, Alner added 176 new sales points, improved its home delivery services, and implemented the reverse vending machine system. Yayasan Rumah Pelangi, a local NGO in Jakarta, trains waste bank members in digital marketing and on how to educate their customers better to switch to reusable products. Alner also partners with the Indonesian government and environmental organizations to advance policies and regulations that create a new reuse economy for the country.


Since its inception in March 2020 until July 2023, Alner has served over 1,000 end-users via home delivery services. More than 500 women act as ambassadors of the reuse concept at waste banks and also receive extra income selling Alner products. There are 300 points of sale in Greater Jakarta, which increases customer accessibility. With total sales of 57,500 reusable packaging units, the social enterprise avoided about 100,239 single-use plastic items such as sachets and pouches from ending in landfills and oceans, based on calculation by independent verification body, Bintari Foundation. Furthermore, the Technology Innovation Challenge enabled the new development of packaging that is recyclable after achieving maximum reuse.

Since the second quarter of 2023, Alner obtained follow-up funding from TRANSFORM, a unique joint initiative between Unilever, the United Kingdom’s Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office and EY. Other funding partners that stepped in since are Mastercard’s Strive Community Innovation Fund and Norwegian Retailer’s Environment Fund. Together, they enabled Alner to reach over 600 points of sale in the Greater Jakarta area, a 200% growth in just 6 months.


Partner with local packaging converters instead of importing reusable packaging from another country. It is environmentally and socially beneficial and will also boost the reuse packaging ecosystem in Indonesia.

Expand points of sales. Alner will analyze the distribution of its online customer data to expand the points of sale. Since each warung sells different products and has different customers, the PoS app will use hyperlocal marketing and optimize the product stocks accordingly.

Enhance return rate. Alner will improve the visibility of the return information across all communication touchpoints, including stickers, banners, and drop boxes. To support the local pick-up strategy, a proportion of the cashback (initially designated for users) may be reallocated to the PoS. To ensure accessibility and a higher return rate, return stations can be strategically placed.

Expand consumer awareness. Scaling the Alner model and getting more consumers to adopt the Alner packaging in their consumption patterns need awareness and education. Price competitiveness is a key factor to gain a larger market alongside credibility of the products contents.

Effectively partner with fast-moving consumer goods. It is essential to partner with brands that practice sustainable efforts as they are more likely to adopt the reuse business model.

Initiate capacity building activities for points of sales. The Points of Sales, especially in the informal sector, require extensive and periodical training instead of a one-time event or workshop. Capacity building needs to include practical aspects such as marketing and sales tips, business management, financial literacy, and strategies for networking and forming partnerships.

Calculate impact. During the project, it was found that consumers may not necessarily transition from sachets to larger packaging immediately. To address this, Alner has adopted a new method to measure its impact based on an extensive user survey of actual user consumption patterns. Alner also plans to engage in an additional, external verification of its impact calculation methodology.

Technology Innovation Challenge

The Technology Innovation Challenge calls for technology providers to submit proposals that deploy innovative solutions to address a specific development challenge that ADB teams have identified. The winning proposal is awarded a grant to accelerate the implementation of the proposed technology solution. It is being implemented by the ADB Innovation Hub and is financed on a grant basis by the High-Level Technology Fund and administered by ADB.


[1] Aquablu. 2022. World's Biggest Plastic Polluters.

[2] L. Wicaksono. 2023. Which Countries Pollute the Most Ocean Plastic Waste? Visual Capitalist. 17 February.


ADB Circular Economy Training Series. Accelerating the Circular Economy: Integrating Circularity into Programs, Projects, and Policies. 21 February–3 October 2023.

ADB Knowledge and Innovation. 2023. Tech-enabled Reusable Packaging System for Consumer Goods Pilot in Jakarta, Indonesia. YouTube video. 00:01:19. 8 September.

Asian Development Bank Institute. 2022. Report Launch: Prospects for Transitioning from a Linear to a Circular Economy in Developing Asia. 1 March.

Bangkok Plastics Week. 9–12 October 2023.

Southeast Asia Development Solutions. 2023. This Social Enterprise Wants to Help Indonesia Eliminate Single-Use Plastics. 7 September.

Bintang Ekananda
Co-Founder & CEO, Alner

Bintang Ekananda holds a Master's degree in Energy & Environment from the University of Leeds, UK. In addition to leading Alner, he is an Assistant Professor at the Environmental Engineering Department of the University of Muhammadiyah Sorong in Papua, Indonesia. With 8 years of experience in environmental engineering and circular business models, he was recognized as a Forbes Under 30 Social Impact honouree for 2022.

Eline Leising
Regional Program Manager, Zero Waste Living Lab Indonesia, Enviu

Eline Leising leads Enviu’s Zero Waste program in Jakarta, Indonesia and beyond. This program builds impact driven ventures on plastics and more specifically on prevention of problematic plastic packaging streams by providing reuse and refill solutions. She has worked on circular plastics for almost 10 years and has prior experience both as a consultant and as an academic researcher. She holds a Master of Science degree in Industrial Ecology with a focus on circular economy.

Innovation Hub

The Innovation Hub creates the enabling conditions for ADB colleagues and partners to envision, experiment, and execute tomorrow’s innovations, today. Its mission is to foster a “culture” to drive innovation within ADB and design innovative solutions with developing member countries to address complex development challenges.

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