Bali trash epidemic gets a kick in the nuts


I was in Bali early last year, it was hot, the surf was pumping, it’s not a surf Mecca for no reason. Locations like this in Indonesia have some of the most epic reef and beach breaks you could imagine, plus accommodation can be cheap as chips, meaning that you needn’t brave the cold waters of our beloved homeland all year round. The locals are generous, adopting you into their community as they would a far-flung family member returning home and the landscape is breathtaking. A little bit of heaven on Earth.

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Awesome times were had, surf, bronzed guys and girls all over, experiencing Hindu celebrations first-hand, being squeezed by a Python (under so-called professional supervision), moonlit streaking, scooter crashes, getting lost – an important element to any adventure holiday, discovering secret beaches, volleyball matches in the jungle, meeting strangers who become lifelong friends and the countless Bintang induced un-foreseen events and even a little bit of sexual harrassment from a boat skipper. A well-rounded trip. But there was one problem.. a problem which in 10 or so years time may stop people from surfing there or even wanting to visit there very much at all. Kelly Slater and others who’ve been to the island will know what I’m talking about, in fact Mr. Slater himself has just donated one of his surfboards into a public auction to help the cause whilst also pledging to match the winning bid dollar-for-dollar .

The problem is trash.

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It’s everywhere. Household rubbish being burned on the side of the road, wild dogs playing in mountains of the stuff and almost every beach has a thick tide-line of plastics, rubber, fishing nets, plastic bags, shoes… There are no adequate landfill or incineration plants in Bali, the Balinese create their own unofficial dump sites where the poorer folk sort through the rubbish, collecting what they can for recycling. “Bali beaches have the worst pollution” says Slater and this is his comment whilst emerging from a ‘great surf‘ at Padang Padang in 2012 – imagine if he’d been surfing the creek mouth at Keramas – Vomiticious. It is an epidemic but people across the globe have been and are now continuing to recognize that something needs to be done. The money raised by the sale of Slater’s board was donated to the R.O.L.E Foundation, a Bali-based environmental organization engaged in saving Bali’s land and marine habitats. The $8,000 raised will go towards education programs such as the Children’s Interactive Environmental Education Tour, which is directed towards bringing the environmental message to the families and the communities of Bali (via the kids as they’re the future right?) Some of the money will also be donated to the Solid and Liquid Waste Infrastructure Construction Project at Uluwatu.

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Quiksilver Indonesia has been partnering with Coca-Cola Amatil Indonesia since 2009 in a corporate social responsibility effort to buy tractors and set up beach cleaning crews; creating and supporting beach Sea Turtle conservation as well as supporting Balinese Lifeguards. These global companies stage their annual Big Bali Eco Weekend each July – an event dedicated to creating maximum visibility for Bali’s environmental issues that includes bringing surfing legends Mark Richards, Tom Carroll, Martin Potter, Jake Paterson and Matt Hoy up from Australia, who raise money by auctioning off iconic surfboards, signing posters, compete in a Local’s versus Legends surf-off, and meet with regional and local government officials to discuss solutions.

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Bali for the mostpart is a spiritual and gentle place. The people are friendly, eager to get to know you and make sure that you experience their culture.

When I first hit the island, I spent a couple of days in Kuta and quickly concluded that this place would do me in. The traffic will most likely hit you and mangle you. Death or severe injury by Balinese scooter, it’s not a good way for your shit to go down. I’d heard of a sweet little surf camp near Padang Padang which I wanted to try out so I headed for it. Rapture Surf Camp turned out to be a wicked place, a little oasis of luxury secreted within the wilds of the forest. It’s the go to place to meet other surfers traveling solo, hang out, BBQ together, relax around the pool,  surf alone or together as much as you want each day with the camp vans shuttling you from beach to beach and instructors on hand to help ramp up your skill level if you want to partake, if not, that’s cool too.

Another great place I headed to was Krisna Villa’s in Balian, a rad family setup, big villa’s overlooking a private beach and a hop, skip and jump from the Balian breaks.

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So back to it; when you’re paddling out and there are plastic spoons, bags and dubious looking man-made objects floating past you, it’s obvious that something needs to be done. But what else is being done exactly that will make a significant difference?

EcoBali are working for a better environment providing solutions to waste disposal in Bali promoting waste separation at source. Weekly collection of plastic, metal, paper and all kind of recyclables for household, villas, schools and they also  train people to compost. Bali Recycling is another organisation which promotes sustainable ways of recycling, reusing and responsibly disposing of rubbish at home and for businesses.

Green bags are available in a number of places now for you to use when buying groceries. Carrefour sell bags that are strong and a good size for just Rp. 10,000 each. Bintang supermarket will put all your groceries in a box if you ask them to. I know, it sounds like caveman and ineffective steps to take in order to attack an issue of this size, but small things do add up.

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In the village of Temesi, people are taking matters into their own hands and have set up a recycling plant to tackle the mounds of trash. Every day sees over 100 people turn 60 tons of waste into compost, which they then sell to finance the facility. The pioneering pilot project is a role model for others in the region and wider Indonesia.

It’s common sense and the ability to make big changes lies in our hands. Next time you go to Indonesia, recycle, introduce the idea of recycling and sustainability to people you meet. It doesn’t take much to spread the word and most importantly, if you’re gonna promote it, make sure you lead by example.

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