Bali is promoted as a paradise on Earth.  Beautiful beaches, friendly people, cheap food and shopping make it a desirable destination for those of us looking for a change of pace.  We have visited Bali multiple times in the last few years and we have used it as a stop over to other destinations in South East Asia such as Thailand and Singapore.  On all of these previous trips we’ve always thought that Bali had a rubbish problem.  You see litter all over the place and I vividly remember swimming at Kuta and Seminyak beaches and feeling multiple pieces of plastic brush up against my legs.  Eww!  It was really disgusting!  But when looking at the beach from out of the water, you probably wouldn’t have even noticed the problem.

Things have changed

What we saw on our most recent trip in early 2018 was one of the saddest sights we’ve seen during all of our travels.  We were stopping over in Kuta for just two nights on our way to Yogyakarta and thought we’d still try to make the most of our time by enjoying some time in Kuta.  On our first ever trip to Bali, we remember how much fun our son Javier had playing in the sand and swimming at Seminyak.

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Javi playing in the sand.  Seminyak in 2016

We wanted him to have a similar experience on this trip, but this time with his little brother.  Unfortunately on this occasion we were greeted with a beach full of rubbish!  It seriously smelt like a rubbish dump and was definitely no place for our kids to be playing.

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Pantai Jerman.  Just a few minutes walk from Kuta Beach.

You can watch us walk down to this Jerman Beach and see our first impressions of this horrible sight in this video.

 

How Could This Happen?

We couldn’t believe things were this bad.  On all of our recent trips to Bali we’d never seen so much rubbish on the beach.  We were honestly in disbelief with what we were looking at.  Luckily for us, staying in Kuta was not really a major part of our plans for this trip.  We wanted to visit Yogyakarta to see the Borobudur and Prambanan Temples.  We also had plans to visit many of the smaller islands off Bali and Lombok.  So even though this issue didn’t really have much of an impact on our holiday, we were still curious to know how the rubbish situation in Bali became what it is today.

When we returned to Australia from our holiday we looked into it a little more and learned this is actually not anything new.  Every year from December to March, thousands of tonnes of plastic are washed onto Bali’s south-westerly facing beaches.  Every morning at dawn cleaners are up early clearing away all the rubbish from the previous day to give the beach the appearance of being reasonably clean.  This year though the problem was particularly bad!

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So much rubbish!

Garbage Emergency!

We discovered that while we were in Bali, Officials actually declared a garbage emergency and deployed 700 cleaners and 35 trucks to remove roughly 100 tons of debris each day to a nearby landfill.  This is an astonishing amount of rubbish!

Where is the Rubbish Coming From?

At first we were quick to react to what we were seeing and thought the people of Bali, and the tourists, needed to make a better effort to dispose of their rubbish.  But the truth is that a majority of the rubbish that is washing up in Bali is actually coming from other parts of Indonesia.  The rubbish is drawn to Bali’s beaches by seasonal winds and heavy rainfall.  This seasonal weather brings the rubbish onto Bali’s south-westerly facing beaches including but not limited to Kuta, Seminyak, Legian and Jimbaran beaches.

Seeing this first hand made me realise that this is a massive problem and also highlights the sad state the worlds oceans are in at the moment.   What were once pristine beaches are flooded with trash every day.

Is There a Solution?

For there to be any hope of fixing this issue the rest of Indonesia needs to be part of the solution.  It seems the authorities in Bali are doing their best to try manage the problem but the amount of rubbish washing up on the shores of Bali is simply overwhelming.  The Indonesian Government really needs to take action and overhaul how rubbish is collected and disposed of throughout all of Indonesia.  I know for us seeing this was a huge turn off and it is likely to have a big impact on tourism in the future if nothing is done soon.  This will already be having an impact on marine life and therefore the health of those those who choose to consume seafood while in Indonesia.

I think ruling out the use of plastics all together is not really achievable in the near future.  What needs to happen now is that everyone needs to be given access to convenient methods to dispose of their rubbish.

Start by providing locals with large bins that are collected every week and disposed of appropriately at landfill sites.  We saw lots of local people in Bali burning their rubbish in their yards.  If some people are willing to do this to dispose of their rubbish, I’d imagine the people that don’t care will just dump their rubbish and allow it to be taken away in the water ways and it’ll eventually find it’s way into the ocean.

There also needs to be bins placed in public places and rubbish collected regularly.  We know that some days we were carrying rubbish around for hours because there weren’t always bins available to us.  It’s not hard to find rubbish littered around Bali and I’m sure many people would just add to this by throwing their rubbish in with it.

Start Fining People for Littering

If people are given proper access to disposing of rubbish then authorities should start fining people for littering.   In Singapore there are hefty fines starting at $300 for first time offenders.  Repeat offenders are fined up to $5000 for littering.  This is why Singapore is the cleanest country in South East Asia.  If Indonesia were to take a similar approach there is no doubt we’d see a much cleaner Indonesia.

Why Should You Care?

Yes, you may not live in Indonesia or have any plans to travel there any time soon.  But this is a problem that not only effects the people of Indonesia, but the entire world.  The oceans are extremely important to everyone on the planet.   It is a major source of food for many.   It produces more than half of our oxygen and absorbs more carbon dioxide than any other source.  So if our oceans are not healthy, than neither are we.  If the Indonesian Government can’t support it’s people to properly dispose of its garbage, then all governments should step up and assist in funding a solution to this problem.

What are your thoughts on this issue?  Have you been to Bali before?  Was there are rubbish problem during your visit?  Do you have any other ideas on how this problem could be fixed?

David

The World n Us
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