One does not need to be a genius to understand, that the amount of plastic bottles all of us use nowadays must have a tremendous impact on our environment. In industrial countries we might be able to easily overlook the problem, because we trust so much in the recycling capabilities, or are at least happy to not have to see the problem, because of a functioning rubbish collection system. What I don't see, is not there.
But we are on Bali. Developing world. Island. A population of more than 4mio. Almost 4mio foreign tourists and 8mio domestic visitors every year. An effective rubbish collection system is non-existent. Once rubbish is collected, it does not mean it is handled properly. First of all, there are no proper facilities, let alone an incinerator to burn the trash. There are no real rubbish recycling facilities at least non yet, that can create a volume that has an impact. And, when rubbish is on the island, most likely it stays on the island. In the forest, in river valleys, somewhere buried in the ground, but most likely it ends up in the sea.
This is not a Bali phenomena, nor an exclusive problem of Indonesia. Thailand, Philippines, Cambodia, Vietnam, Malaysia. It's huge. The sea is the trash can of the world. And every consumer takes part in this madness.
Individuals can have the tendency to ignore problems, making themselves believe, that the are not part of it. Particularly when we travel, it is easy to assume, that we are not really part of the challenges Bali is facing today, because - we are only guests here. We are not part of the system, have no say in it, and anyway, we are on holidays and want to have a great time.
It's not a secret, that millions of tourists every year, come to Bali and act in ways, they would never act at home. This includes not only a higher consumption of alcohol or walking around topless or in bikinis in shops, but also the way we handle trash.
We would love to remind each and everyone of you, that Bali, is even more in need of your conscious handling of trash, than your hometown. And we are 100% convinced, once you acknowledge that fact, that you are willing and motivated, to act and consume more consciously.
And to be fair, many many visitors are very aware of the situation, because they see the beaches, the trash in the rice fields and the endless line of plastic bags on the road side. But it takes quite some effort to avoid plastic and handle any sort of trash responsibly. Because, the system does not support you.
This is actually a very valid question. For two main reasons. First, the sheer amount of trash and the size of the problem is so overwhelming, that it is very easy to simply give up on the idea, that it will ever get better. This picture is taken at famous Seminyak Beach during the rainy season. The trash gets washed ashore during that time of the year quite regularly. It shows the amount of trash that must be out there in the sea.
Second, if you spend just a few days on Bali it will be hard not to notice, that many Balinese are throwing their garbage everywhere. Into the river banks, the sea, on the ground, out of their cars. One wonders, what makes them treat own land with so little respect, while in many ways they consider Bali as a sacred place.
The Balinese who are aware of this phenomena are actually quite angry at their fellow citizens, and blame it on lack of education and lack of knowledge. It is true, that decades ago, everybody threw away everything and never bothered, because most things were packed in Banana leaves or newspapers. If you talk to kids and you tell them, that plastic will not biodegrade and at best become really small and end up in the stomach of a fish, they are super amazed and can't believe it.
But we should bother. We must bother. Even if many around us do not. And you will be amazed, how many friendly chats you will have with interested folks, who wonder why you did not use a plastic bag at the convenience store, or why you decided to buy a refill in one of the eco-friendly restaurants, instead of a new water bottle.
There is much that you can do, without jeopardizing your well deserved holiday and turning yourself into a grumpy ambassador for the recycling industry. First, we need to acknowledge the power of being the consumer. And then act on this power and choose more consciously which products we buy.
Your choices will have an impact. No matter what!
Melati and Isabel Wijsen Campaign to ban plastic bags in Bali
Watch what happens to plastic after we throw it away.