If you’ve been to Bali, you’ve noticed the garbage. Bali is, by nearly every sense of the word, paradise. Beautiful beaches, perfect weather, crystal clear water, friendly people, and of course, perfect waves. All of it, however, is marred by the inundation of plastic waste. It’s everywhere—the beaches are covered in it, the roadsides are packed with it, and despite the fact that it’s a very obvious, visible problem, there’s not all that much being done about it. Early in December, things got so bad that the island declared a “garbage emergency.”
It’s nothing new, either. With monsoon season comes a rising tide full of incredible amounts of litter. Plastic bottles, diapers, broken flip flops, drinking straws, all wash into the sea and onto the sand from Bali and Java.
According to The Telegraph, a stretch of beaches on the west coast of Bali was recently declared an emergency zone after authorities decided that the amount of garbage washing up was hampering tourism. Workers sent to beaches in Jimbaran, Kuta, and Seminyak reportedly spent a few days cleaning up the 4-mile stretch of sand and removed nearly 50 tons of trash a day.
“It is awful. People just don’t care, it’s everywhere, it’s everywhere,” Gulang, a hotel worker who declined to give his second name, said to The Telegraph. “The government does something, but it is really just a token thing.”
It’s a complicated issue though—although much of the so-called solutions are indeed not much more than lip service, the problem doesn’t stem from Bali alone. Indonesia is the second biggest ocean polluter (after China), and much of the garbage that washes up on Bali comes from the Java Sea. The country doesn’t have an adequate refuse management system, and much of the trash that doesn’t end up in ditches or in the sea is simply burned on the side of the road. Single-use plastics are increasing and there’s nowhere to put it all. The community is aware of the issue, but without major changes at a governmental level, all they can do is pick up the trash and hope for the best.