Many tourists come to Bali and notice the problem of rubbish, particularly plastic. Not many of us are ready to admit that we are part of the problem. Up to the 1970s, the Balinese used banana leaves and other natural products as plates, containers, and wrapping. Most discarded waste was biodegradable, such as palm leaves, coconut shells and other fibrous matter which were composted or burnt. Mass tourism, rapid urbanisation, the rise of the plastic industry and consumerism have seen the rubbish problem explode. Tourists demand drinking water in plastic bottles: most don’t carry their own shopping bags but readily accept plastic to carry their ‘bounty’ back to guest houses, little realising that plastic litter from hotel waste bins will be burnt, exuding noxious gasses into the environment or will be dumped illegally as 75% of rubbish is not collected by any service.
You could complain or you could become part of the solution. Sitting down over lunch today, I saw a vision of loveliness as a beautiful young Dutch woman began to clean plastic debris from the sea. She asked the owners of the warung why they only cleaned the area in front of their own business and not the sea. Like most Indonesians, they only see what is theirs, which they maintain very well through cleaning and raking daily. Anything beyond the perimeter of their own house or business is someone else’s problem.
Rather than sun baking all day on her sun lounge, she took matters into her own hands and, with found plastic bags, collected debris from the sea. Imagine if every tourist could fill two plastic bags a day? Leading by example is a much better teacher than pointing the finger.