The linear economic model running in the flower industry has resulted in excessive resource utilization and increased environmental pollution. The circular economy offers a better alternative economic model for realizing sustainable development, focusing on environmental preservation by considering broad social aspects. Floral waste is becoming one of the main problems for agrotourism in the Karo Regency, North Sumatra. The waste from festive events is not being utilized for beneficial purposes, quickly polluting the surrounding areas and contradicting their purpose of beautifying them. As an agricultural waste, the flower is an input source with the potential to be developed to have beneficial values if appropriately processed.
The Karo Regency is famous for its festive events, which generally involve flowers of many kinds; one of them is the chrysanthemum, a colorful flower with eleven unique variants. Karo’s flower industry focuses primarily on its form as fresh flowers. The development of the flower by-products and by-waste is minimal, even though the resulting product can increase the selling value and, therefore, the income of flower farmers. The flower is one of the main displays in the Taman 1000 Bunga (Garden of Thousand Flowers) Agrotourism, managed by a community-based corporation. It provides economic and cultural support to locals. The problem with many festive events is that it only runs some year-round, which poses a threat of loss to garden management, along with hundreds of tons of waste weekly.
A group of researchers from the Faculty of Agriculture, Universitas Sumatera Utara, led by Professor Elisa Julianti, proposed a solution to the problem with the help of industrial partners through a government-supported, highly competitive grant project, Kedaireka. The project is expected to reduce the negative impact of economic activity on the environment, increase added value, reduce price volatility, and increase employment growth for the flower industry. The soon-to-be waste chrysanthemums will be re-purposed through drying machines, turning the flower into chrysanthemum tea. The resulting tea has many restorative benefits, such as curing flu, coughs, digestion problems, asthma, and sinusitis-induced headache, all while regulating blood pressure, helping the detoxification process, and improving vision, based on the research published in Food Chemistry by Lin and Harnly (2010). Thus, the unused flowers can be turned into good herbal tea, averting the discard of massively produced chrysanthemum petals. The garden management has previously attempted to take the proposed actions using a sun-drying method, but this yields a different quality of the resulting herbal tea and production levels. This problem can be solved efficiently using the aforementioned drying machine method, providing a controllable process to acquire the desired condition of produced chrysanthemums’ bioactive parts.
The research team’s efforts, together with industrial partners and the community, would, in turn, provide profits to the community-managed garden, bolstering the production of herbal tea that would benefit many and promote a circular economy. Consequently, the flowers not only provide beauty for the surrounding area but also support local culture and local farmer economy while being sustainable in the process.