Indonesia is just one of many poverty and famine epicenters that exist throughout the world. With a large portion of its citizens living on less than $25 a month, many are left trapped in an endless cycle of hunger, homelessness, and hopelessness. As the country struggles to rebuild its middle class and help locals break out of the cycle of poverty, a unique restaurant hopes to provide some sense of relief to those struggling to make ends meat (pun intended).
You won’t find this restaurant on Yelp or UberEats; no, this is a restaurant with a different kind of mission. The Methane Gas Canteen is a project established by Sarimin and Suyatmi, a husband and wife team and proud Indonesia natives. Their innovative restaurant is located in Semarang, Indonesia, but you’ll have to go bit off-the-beaten-path to arrive for a meal.
On the outskirts of Semarang sits a massive landfill, and inside the landfill sits The Methane Gas Canteen. While it may not seem like a very appetizing location for a diner-style restaurant, the overwhelming success and support for the endeavor will have to say otherwise. The Jatibarang Landfill is a popular location for impoverished locals, as they are free to dig, sift, and scavenge through endless piles of waste hoping to collect any plastic or glass materials to sell. Sarimin and Suyatmi know this process well, as they used to be among the scavengers hoping to get by on what the could collect from the landfill. After 40 years of poverty and waste, the couple opened up shop as a means of providing citizens just like them with a warm meal and some genuine hospitality.
Besides the unusual location, there’s another catch to enjoying a meal at The Methane Gas Canteen. No cash or monetary form of payment is required at the diner; instead, guests have the option of paying for their meals with recycled materials, such as things they can salvage from the landfill just outside. Saramin has created a innovative system to weigh materials and calculate its worth as an alternative to monetary compensation. Speaking to the success of his endeavor, Saramin says, “I think we recycle 1 tonne of plastic waste a day, which is a lot. This way, the plastic waste doesn’t pile up, drift down the river and cause flooding. This doesn’t only benefit the scavengers, it benefits everyone.”
A typical meal at this landfill diner is between .40 and .80 cents, and guests can order from a variety of menu items such as vegetable soup, catfish, rice varieties, and many other traditional recipes. Sarimin and Suyatmi earn about $15 dollars a day by running their restaurant, which is nearly double what they would make from just scavenging on their own.
Since opening the canteen Sarimin and Suyatmi have seen their daily income more than double to $15 (USD) a day, compared to when they relied solely on scavenging. When asked about the importance of their work, Sarimin says, “The poor must also have the right to enjoy healthy eating. I want to give them that chance as much as possible.” With such an innovative and entrepreneurial spirit, Sarimin and Suyatmi seem to be on the path to something great.