About a week and bit ago I got back from an amazing holiday in Bali, Indonesia. And let me just start by saying what an amazing trip it was. I found Bali to be such a culturally enriched place with the loveliest and most friendly people living on an island surrounded by fascinating nature which will make you feel one with the earth again… excuse my cliche Eat, Pray, Love moment. The active volcanoes, forests, waterfalls, amazing cliff-sides, black sand beaches and not to mention the beautiful beaches where you can just spend hours are something out of a storybook. This trip started off in Ubud, a small village town surrounded by forest and rivers. For anyone who has been, they will know its unforgettable serenity and beauty, the ideal place to feel in touch with nature and forget about your mundane routines back home. After a few days in Ubud, it was time to make our way to the beachside where we would spend the rest of our holiday. We stayed in Nusa Dua (where prices for just about anything a doubled because this is often known as the luxurious tourist area of the island… but that’s a story for another day). Arriving at Nusa Dua was the first time that we had seen the ocean and all its beauty. So over the next few days, we spent our time reading on the beach, touring the island and even trekking up a volcano to watch the sunrise. Come Christmas Eve, we thought it would be fitting to spend the evening exploring the Uluwatu temple where we could watch the Kecak dance followed by the famous and much-anticipated seafood dinner along Jimbaran beach.
At Jimbaran, your table is set on the beach upon arrival where you can enjoy the sand between your toes and the sound of waves crashing as you feast away on your seafood dinner. It sounds like bliss right?
Wanting to get a closer look at the ocean, we noticed a site that could make your tummy flip. Alongside this ocean shore paradise lay a blanket of plastic and rubbish. It almost made you second guess your eyes as it was such shocking and foreign sight. Who expects to see a beach covered in plastic!? I am sure many of you know what a popular destination Bali is for many tourists. The tiny island receives around 4-5 million tourists a year and out of these 4-5 million tourists, the vast majority flock to Jimbaran to experience a one of a kind seafood dinner alongside a beach covered in plastic. Yet sitting at our beachside table was the first I had heard or seen such a disgusting and gut-wrenching image in real life. The sight of this left me feeling both angry and sad at the same time as this contradictory scene where tourist listening to the sound of music under stars beside the sea with joy-filled eyes, but less than a few meters next to them lay the plastic responsible for suffocating the ocean which we all very much adore.
Trying to comprehend where this was coming from and how this could be happening in such a place where nature and culture are one. The first thought that came to mind was that Bali’s government was not supporting or providing for its people, specifically in the realm of waste management. We knew this much was true as it was visible driving through the many small villages in Ubud.
Before leaving the Jimbaran dinner, we decided to take a closer look where it became clearer that this was not just random bits of plastic finding its way to the ocean from the rural villages of Bali, but rather waste from companies or manufacturers. This made it clear that it is unexplained dumping that is occurring.
On our way back to our hotel after that, we decided to ask our driver, Wayan, what he thought and knew of all this plastic. Although his English was not that good, he seemed to clearly understand our concern and what we were asking. Wayan told us that this plastic was not only from Bali but from neighbouring Indonesian islands like Java. Furthermore, with the spike in tourism in Bali, Wayan told us that many hotels were also responsible for dumping and increased plastic in oceans. This statement invoked a sense of guilt in me and in some way I was also responsible for this.
The sight of all that plastic that night has made me change the way I view many things. It made me understand that just recycling is not enough. It is not enough to stop the mountains of plastic floating in our oceans. Everything that we buy or use is likely to contain some form of plastic, it could be made from plastic or packaged in plastic. Most of the time, this plastic is not biodegradable. This means that these plastics do not decompose and if they eventually do this could take close to 500 years. Most plastic bottles that we use take to 1000 years to decompose.
I know reading all of this is really upsetting, trust me, it has been a complete wake-up call for me too. As someone who has always loved nature and cared for the environment, we think that recycling paper or choosing not to ask for a plastic bag or receipt once is enough to help the environment, but there is so much more than that. If we choose to remain oblivious to what is happening to our planet right now it is believed that by 2050 our oceans will contain more plastic than fish in terms of weight. Usually, when we read statistics like that we think we have time but 2050 is close to 30 years away, that is in my lifetime and yours too which means we have to start rethinking our lifestyles now.
Here are some tips for reducing your plastic:
There are obviously other ways, but this is a start.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this matter and maybe some other tips or ways you might have for reducing the use of plastic.