Indonesia, with Bali at its forefront, is the world’s second-largest plastic polluter, significantly contributing to the waste that ends up in the sea and on land, including at landfill sites.

As an expatriate residing in the picturesque island of Bali, the contrast between its natural beauty and the burgeoning plastic problem is both stark and disheartening.

The plastic issue here mirrors a global crisis, but its impact on this small paradise is noticeably profound. The overuse of plastic, limited recycling initiatives, and the resultant pollution are alarming.

This menace not only mars the island’s aesthetics but also threatens its marine life and the livelihood of locals dependent on tourism.

Bali's Plastic Problem - Polluted Street | BaliKit

The Overwhelming Plastic Deluge

Bali’s plastic problem is exacerbated by a culture of convenience synonymous with plastic usage. From plastic bags, bottles, to single-use utensils, the omnipresence of plastic is both a convenience and a curse. With inadequate recycling facilities and a lack of general awareness about the detrimental effects of plastic, the island has become an unwilling host to mounds of plastic waste.

The plastic problem in Bali is a multi-faceted issue involving locals, businesses, and tourists. Each group contributes to the plastic conundrum in distinct ways, often exacerbated by a lack of adequate waste management systems. Here’s a breakdown of how each group contributes to the overuse of plastic on the island:

Locals: The influx of modern conveniences and the availability of cheap plastic products have led to an uptick in plastic usage among the local populace. The rise of convenience stores filled with plastic-packaged goods reflects a shift in local lifestyles towards increased plastic consumption.

Businesses: The rapid economic growth and the booming tourism industry in Bali have driven many businesses to rely heavily on plastic for packaging and serving purposes. For instance, the use of plastic bags, straws, and Styrofoam containers had become common until the local government intervened by banning single-use plastics in 2018.

Tourists: Tourists significantly contribute to the plastic problem. On average, a tourist in Bali uses 3.5 times more plastic per day compared to a local resident. The tourism sector’s rapid growth has translated into an increase in waste generation, with 38% of the waste generated in 2018 attributed to foreign visitors.

General Factors: Indonesia, including Bali, lacks a centralized waste management system, which results in a significant portion of the trash, including plastic waste, ending up in rivers and eventually the ocean.

    • In 2016, the country used an astonishing 9.8 billion plastic bags, many of which ended up polluting Bali’s beautiful rivers and oceans.

    The overuse of plastic in Bali is a complex issue tied to modernization, economic growth, and tourism. Addressing this problem requires a multi-pronged approach involving regulatory measures, awareness campaigns, and active participation from locals, businesses, and tourists alike to transition towards more sustainable practices and reduce plastic waste on the island.

    Bali's Plastic Problem - Polluted Water | BaliKit

    The Scenic Beaches Under Siege

    The visual splendor of Bali’s beaches is now juxtaposed with the unsightly image of plastic debris. The tides often bring in a barrage of plastic waste, detracting from the serene beach experience and posing a grave threat to marine life. Furthermore, the accumulation of plastic waste on beaches and in the waters is a deterrent to tourists, potentially impacting the island’s economy significantly.

    The Landfill in Flames

    Bali, known for its idyllic landscapes, has been facing a menacing plastic pollution crisis, a situation aggravated by recent fire incidents at its landfill sites. The island’s waste management issues have been no secret, with accumulating trash, particularly plastic waste, posing severe threats not only to the environment but also to the health and safety of both residents and visitors.

    On 12th October, a significant fire broke out at the Suwung TPA landfill site in South Denpasar, leading to massive plumes of black and white smoke visible from miles around. The fires have led to the release of toxic fumes into the atmosphere, significantly worsening the air quality around the island.

    The massive accumulation of plastic waste, some of which comes from countries like Australia, Europe, and North America, further fuels these fires, turning landfills into dangerous fire hazard.

    The alarming amount of plastic waste in Bali, driven by insufficient recycling infrastructure and growing tourism, not only feeds the fires but also contributes to the island’s broader waste management crisis.

    The recent fire events in Bali’s landfill sites are a stark reminder of the pressing plastic pollution problem and its far-reaching repercussions. Through concerted efforts encompassing policy changes, educational initiatives, and global cooperation, it’s hopeful that Bali can navigate through this crisis and restore its natural charm, ensuring the safety and well-being of its ecosystem and people.

    Bali's Plastic Problem - Polluted Island | BaliKit

    Initiatives to Stem the Plastic Tide

    Acknowledging the gravity of the situation, various stakeholders in Bali have begun to rally against plastic pollution. The local government has initiated a ban on single-use plastics, which is a commendable step towards mitigating the issue. Additionally, numerous non-governmental organizations and community groups are tirelessly working to educate the public, organize beach clean-up drives, and promote recycling.

    Moreover, the burgeoning eco-conscious movement among the residents and businesses in Bali is a silver lining. Many eateries and resorts now offer reusable straws, bags, and containers to curb plastic usage. Innovative solutions such as plastic roads, where discarded plastic is used in road construction, are also being explored.

    The path towards a plastic-free Bali is fraught with challenges, yet the collective efforts being made are a beacon of hope. The growing awareness and actionable steps being taken are indicative of a promising trajectory towards restoring the island’s pristine beauty and ensuring a sustainable future for both the locals and expatriates alike.

    The journey may be long and arduous, but with continued effort and an unyielding resolve, Bali can indeed navigate through the plastic tide and emerge with its natural charm unscathed.


    The Bali Guide