Bali’s Plastic Bottleneck and How To Play Your Part

Every month in beautiful Bali, 30million plastic bottles are bought, used and discarded. Some of these arerecycled or reused, a few of these are made from recycled or biodegradableplastics, but many become litter and landfill. Within a small island eco-systemlike Bali, this has the potential to become a fragile situation.

Discarded plastic bottles becomea nuisance to farmers, an obstacle for surfers, and a danger to the wildlife ofBali. Given it’s estimated that plastic bottles can take anywhere between 450and 1000 years to break down, it’s easy to see that this problem needs to beaddressed before it begins.

Globally,almost half the plastic we buy is used just once and then thrown away, with only one fifth of water bottlesmaking it into recycling programs.

Plastic Threatens Our Oceans

Bali is abeautiful, beachy destination. Anyone who has visited can speak to the strengthof communities, the stunning seaside views, and the rich jungle and wildlife. Asfortunate visitors, we can – and should– support local reduce / reuse / recycle efforts to protect this island oasis.

However, plasticdisposed of in Bali is not just a problem for Indonesia – plastic can drift foryears and will likely end up in one of five gyres – a gyre is basically amassive, floating garbage patch in the ocean where plastic gathers thanks tocurrent circulation. Scientists estimate that there are 200 areas in our oceanwhere no life organisms can grow, due to the inorganic waste.

The Mounting Problem

There are afew factors why Indonesia is struggling to keep up with the amount of waste andrecycling.

With 250million people and thousands of islands making up the Southeast Asian nation ofIndonesia, the logistics on organising waste processing and recycling to thisscale is extremely difficult, and costly. Unfortunately, this means there isn’ta unified system that can cope with the scale of waste and recycling on aregular basis. 

Bali isjust one of these islands, and ROLE Foundation say “Every 24 hours, 15,000 cubic metres of trash is disposed of along Bali’sroadsides and at illegal dump sites, enough to completely fill sixOlympic-sized swimming pools every single day”. 

Solutionsfor Sustainability

There are some fantastic, local-focus recycling projects and ocean clean-up initiatives we like in Bali –we encourage you to find out more on the work they’re doing:

Theauthorities in Bali could place a ban on single-use plastics. Cinqueterre inItaly has banned plastic bottles, Rwanda has banned plastic bottles – it is possible to implement and enforcelegal initiatives to limit use, and therefore limit waste. We're looking forward to a bottle-free Bali one day!

But what can I do on my next trip?

Changinglaws takes time and a shift of the mindset of lawmakers. Recycling initiativesand clean ups are solutions after theproblem has already begun. But, if you’re visiting Bali in the near future,staying hydrated and drinking safe water is a must in the Indonesian heat, sowhat’s a GOOD Traveller to do?

Here aresome practical steps you can take to ensure you have a positive impact on theenvironment.

1.     BYO reusable drink bottle, or buyone when you arrive to support local retailers (Bottle for Botol sells online and in stores in Bali: for every bottle you purchase, one is donated to a student in Bali). Most accommodation providers,cafes, and beach clubs have clean water coolers for you to refill from, forfree! Also, small and inexpensive plastic bottles are notalways made to food grade – reuse of these, especially when exposed to directsunlight, can cause chemicals to leach into your drinking water. Choose areusable bottle for both the environment and your health.

2.     Use your consumer power, and request filtered‘free flow’ water when eating out. This lets your wait staff know you would notlike a plastic bottle and are happy with clean drinking water served in aglass. The more consumers ask, the greater the demand on businesses to changetheir practices. And don’t forget to ask for no plastic straw!

3.     If you aren’t able to avoid buyingbottled water, go for the largest size bottle you can find, so you’ll contributeless plastic overall.

4.     If you do need to dispose of aplastic bottle, carry it with you until you’re able to recycle it. Hotels andsome cafes have facilities to do this for you.

You canalso refuse plastic bags while shopping, buy groceries at the local marketwhere fresh fruit and vegetables aren’t pre-packaged in plastic, and ensure anytoiletries, gifts or other items you’re bringing to Bali don’t have excesspackaging that you’ll need to dispose of once you arrive.

Together, we can support local efforts to protect and maintain this exciting tourism destination - ensuring it is just as relaxing and beautiful as ever for the future generations.

July 23, 2023
5 min read