The world is drowning in Plastic

It’s not difficult to notice how much of a detrimental effect plastic waste has on the environment. One million plastic bottles are bought every minute, according to the UN. Currently, the world produces 400 million tonnes of plastic garbage and use up to five trillion plastic bags annually. Due to their accessibility and practicality, disposable plastics such as straws, cups, bottles, and other products are widely utilized in Indonesian daily life and often end up in rivers and oceans. Four of Indonesia’s rivers are among the top 20 most polluted rivers in the world due to poor plastic waste management. In terms of its contribution to marine plastic pollution, Indonesia is currently only second to China.

Unfortunately, this is not unique to Bali or an issue that only affects Indonesia; other developing nations are still far behind in putting effective waste and recycling solutions into practice. Even with a “recycling system” in place, first-world nations like the US are still the world’s largest producers of plastic waste — the US alone produced about 42 million metric tons in 2016. (read full article**). As a result, the world’s ocean in particular has evolved into a dump for countries with coastlines.

Trash Problem in Bali

Industrialized nations might be able to ignore the issue because of recycling facilities, where a working waste management system keeps the issue out of sight. However, Bali is a relatively small island in the developing nation of Indonesia, has a local population of over four million, with over five million foreign tourists and eight million domestic visitors annually. It becomes a very visible issue when mass tourism contributes to the waste, given the 13+ million visitors combined that Bali receives from other islands and the rest of the world. After spending even just a short time in Bali, it’s difficult to miss all the rubbish found on the streets, river banks, and rice fields, even if certain areas are still very clean and well managed.

In the last 10 years, there has been a significant rise in the amount of plastic that keeps washing up ashore. The beaches in Kuta and Legian, arguably two of Bali’s most popular tourist spots, get up to 60 tonnes of plastic trash each year. Authorities are struggling to keep up with the deluge of rubbish that appear on the beaches of Bali, and many other beaches in the Indonesian archipelago that are experiencing a similar fate. Though the tourist ministry continues to fund periodic beach cleanings, the frequency of how much plastic washes up on the beaches gives a clear idea of how much trash must be in the ocean.

Even worse, this is now an annual occurrence as a result of monsoons and more significantly, inefficient waste management that has led to a disaster of worldwide marine pollution. After heavy rains in regions such as Indonesia that experiences a tropical climate, the rubbish eventually finds its way into the sea through landfills and, in more rural areas, rivers.

It becomes almost impossible to dispose of plastic waste or any other kind of trash ethically especially when dumps and landfills begin to overflow; most villagers see burning trash in their backyard as the only alternative option, which then contributes to the environmental issue of air pollution as well. There is a widespread lack of awareness regarding waste management, which frankly spans across all of Indonesia, that most NGOs and eco-warriors focus on educating the general public on what they can do to help clean or prevent more waste.

Bali needs you, and you can join beach clean ups and support many of the amazing NGOs and green initiatives

What the Government has been doing about plastic waste management

The Indonesian Ministry of Tourism is putting a lot of effort into setting up and supporting projects in Bali to transition to a more sustainable and “greener tourism,” as well as to recognize and encourage company owners to accept responsibility. The governor of Bali, Wayan Koster, issued a ban on single-use plastic in December 2018 with a six-month implementation window to give businesses time to prepare. Straws, plastic bags, and the iconic Styrofoam were all banned when the rule was ultimately put into place. However, when the pandemic hit, everything naturally came apart as single-use plastics were once again ingested by people for reasons of hygiene, safety, and health. Since the pandemic’s height has thankfully passed, environmental concerns have become a forefront priority for the Indonesian government and that includes the ban of single-use plastics by the end of 2022.

10 easy things you can do to support a greener Bali. Your choices will have an impact. No matter what!