Words by Emily Wilkins
Anyone who has been to the beautiful island of Bali can tell you, on closer inspection, there’s a bit of a filthy issue that’s not on the postcards. Rubbish. It’s everywhere, in the streets, piled up behind warungs, even between your strokes as you paddle for a wave. In fact, it can be so bad that many surfers from the Bukit Peninsua right up to Channgu, will not be surprised when they find themselves suffering from eye or ear infections. The problem is already way out of hand, but it’s not only tourists that are to blame. Although the problem has obviously stemmed from the island’s western influence and speedy urbanisation, the Balinese government has encouraged such growth, yet failed to keep up with and provide for the consequences. Unfortunately much of the inappropriately disposed of waste comes from locals and their businesses’, but even that that is disposed of properly either goes into a smothered mangrove or is incinerated, releasing toxic and carcinogenic fumes.
The problem is complex and it’s not going to be solved by one person alone. Luckily there are lots of dedicated people out there, and a few great charities (Project Clean Uluwatu, Bali Fokus, and ecoBali, to name but a few) that are determined to tackle the problem head on. Meanwhile, visiting the island in the face of so much rubbish it is easy to be complacent and believe our own individual impact to be minor in comparison to what we see around us. However, it is this attitude that must change in order to drive a new market towards recyclable or re-usable products over disposables, and this is something everyone can take part in.
So what can we do? Well I’m heading out to this wonderland soon and although I’m not going to actively fight for change on what I, as for many, am treating as a holiday, I don’t want to add to the problem. Here are some things I’m going to do to try to reduce my impact:
Number 1. I have a Bobble Bottle (a water bottle with a micro filter in the lid) and I will only drink tap water. I will refuse to buy throwaway plastic bottles, and I will suck it up when I’d prefer my water ice cold, and think of the countless less bottles being burnt, releasing their poison into the atmosphere.
Number 2. I will not buy plastic tat. I don’t need it, and probably won’t even take it home when it comes to packing my bag to leave; I doubt my friends or family want such souvenirs either.
Number 3. I shall think carefully about what I consume. By eating at warungs and not buying plastic packaged snacks from corner shops, I will make every effort to go entirely plastic free throughout my month long trip. I will drink juices made from real fruits in the warungs too and coconut water from coconuts not cartons, I’d be mad not to!
Number 4. I promise to log everything plastic I throwaway in an effort to measure the quantity of my waste, and the feasibility and ease of not producing it. And when I’m back I’ll tell you honestly how it all went. Wish me luck!
This is an image from a trip to Sumbawa where the problem litter problem is quickly following that of Bali’s.
There’s an initiative in Bali ‘Bye Bye Plastic Bags Bali’ to minimise the use of plastic bags in Bali and they need 1 million signatures. So click here and take a minute to sign up and help Bali get rid of it’s plastic!