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Current Bali Issues – The Rubbish Dilemma

By admin On Friday, February 13, 2015 | Comments (0)

In The West we have had many years to formulate a social and political policy towards the use and disposal of the packaging materials which constitute the bulk of Bali’s refuse issues. For many centuries, the Balinese would buy their bungkus, ‘take away’ meals in brown paper and banana leaves. These would serve as a container for both carrying the meal home and its consumption; and when finished, they could be tossed in a field or a hedgerow to be subsumed by the eco-system.

When tourists came to Bali, bringing with them wealth and foreign ways, it became common practice to use plastic bags instead – often to carry the brown-paper bungkusses home but frequently to replace the packaging which used to contain the staples; rice, sugar, coffee and liquids of all kinds, etc. When some of us were first in Bali, we’d say, “Oh, it’s understandable that The Balinese don’t realise that plastic can remain intact in the soil for hundreds of years. When they do, they’ll reduce the use of plastic packaging and dispose of the packaging in an environmentally responsible manner”, or words to that effect! Unfortunately, however, two and three decades later, this is still not the case and Bali’s refuse disposal problem is reaching critical levels.

In some places, entire rice fields are choked with garbage. This is mainly plastic bags and other plastic packaging which has blown in the wind from elsewhere; although often is it simply a wrapper or a carrier bag which has been thoughtlessly discarded. Despite efforts by groups such as GUS (Gelombang Udara Segar – Wave of Fresh Air) and other environmental education groups, Indonesians still seem oblivious to the problem of refuse piling up in all corners of the island – even behind the walls of the villas in Bali. If you see someone throwing litter on the ground, you are very welcome to shout ‘Jorok!’ (disgusting), which GUS have been teaching school children all over the island to do!

As a concerned foreigner, you can help by gently pointing out to our hosts that you don’t like to see litter tumbling down the back of Bali’s temples or piled up to the side of beauty spots. Tell them it doesn’t only offend your eye but it hurts your heart to see Bali disappearing under a deluge of refuse. When staying in the many villas of Bali, check outside your walls to see if there are piles of rubbish nearby. If there are, you can arrange, for only a few dollars, to have it taken away and disposed of properly in Bali’s landfill site or for some of it to be recycled.

One issue over which few people have control is the burning of plastic rubbish. If your senses are assaulted by acrid plastic smoke while staying in the villas of Bali, it is very reasonable to go to the person burning the rubbish and complain. Tell them that the smoke is poisonous for them, their children and for you and ask them to stop. As more and more people complain and point out the alternatives, the paradigm of refuse disposal will change – as it has done over the last 40 years in The West. Central government has woken up to the problem and is pursuing policies to make disposal easier and there are some movements to ban plastic packaging. As a resident in the villas of Bali it becomes our responsibility to help the issue wherever we can – if only by making sure that our rubbish is disposed of properly and we never throw rubbish into the streets or rice fields!

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