Trash Tattoo

Why Is This Indonesian Man Tattooing Trash?

If you’ve ever traveled in the developing world, you’ve probably noticed piles of trash strewn everywhere. I know I have, which is why it came as such a surprise to me to see plastic bottles, painted in the colors of the Indonesian flag, arranged decoratively on a fence while heading toward a popular tourist attraction in the city of Yogyakarta earlier today.

About halfway down the street, I noticed an unassuming man holding a needle, only he wasn’t using it on his skin. “What are you doing with that?” I asked. “Is this a tattoo gun?”

He nodded. “Yes, with added heat to melt the plastic.”

Just then, I noticed the menagerie of artwork behind him, which appeared from far away to be ultra-modern paintings of some sort.

But a closer look at his current work-in-progress revealed otherwise. “I take plastic I’ve found on the streets and in the countryside,” he said, taking a break from his task, “and turn it into art.

“The process of getting people to care about the problem of waste disposal is slow,” he continued, “but every person I meet who sees my art is forever changed. I have faith that in my lifetime we can see serious progress.”


As our brief conversation progressed I learned that the man’s name was Uwuh and that he not only made plastic paintings, but also backpacks and messenger bags. He was also selling jewelry and other wearable trinkets, but admitted that he didn’t make them himself.

“They’re my wife’s,” he smiled adoringly, adding that he was also father to a young son, whose busted electric toy truck he was in the process of repairing. “I’m trying to teach him that when something’s broken, you don’t throw it away – you fix it.”

Uwuh and I didn’t get to talk for long and unfortunately, since I was low on cash, I didn’t get the opportunity to purchase anything from him. But if you’re as inspired by what he does as I am, you can email him or, if you’re in Yogyakarta, visit him using the information listed on his business card below. (Which is printed on recycled paper, obviously).


About The Author

is the author of 790 posts on Leave Your Daily Hell. Robert founded Leave Your Daily Hell in 2010 so that other travelers would have an entertaining, reliable source of information, advice and inspiration at their fingertips. Want to travel more often? Subscribe to email updates today!


informs, inspires, entertains and empowers travelers like you. My name is Robert and I'm happy you're here!


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{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

sandy February 17, 2014 at 5:59 am

Hi robert! Thanks for sharing this story, it is great that you also shared about the local, such an inspirational story! Anyway, do you have plans to visit Bandung West Java? I am living here so may be I can help you if you come here. 🙂

Robert Schrader February 17, 2014 at 7:03 pm


I will unfortunately not have time to visit West Java on this trip, which is especially sad because of all the lovely West Java people I’ve met thus far. next time?

sandy February 19, 2014 at 9:27 am

Yeah you should come here next time then let me know ok. Enjoy your trip there!

Isabella R May 30, 2017 at 3:09 am

Hi there, I just visited Uwuh and his wife Wakit because if your reference. I did support him and I’m thinking of supporting him in another way ’cause I write art-schoolprograms. Still thinking…
By the way, he is making the small dots in the platic material with a soldering iron though…

Robert Schrader May 30, 2017 at 4:43 am

I’m so glad you chose to visit him! I hope you enjoyed your time.

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