Anyone who has visited Indonesia will no doubt have witnessed the enormity of the country’s plastic waste problem. Visit any beach in Bali and you will likely see countless plastic bottles, cups and straws littering the top of the shore.
Visit the Gili islands off Lombok and you will see much less plastic waste. On a recent visit it became obvious that the inhabitants of the Gilis are taking a more proactive approach to looking after their environment.
Most places don’t automatically give you a plastic straw unless you specifically ask for one. Others provide paper or bamboo straws. The latter can also be purchased for around 2000 Rupiah (~11p) should you want to keep it and use it elsewhere on your travels.
Every day we use 1 billion plastic straws, most of which go to landfill or end up in the sea. They take hundreds of years to completely disappear but get mechanically broken down by wave action and sunlight much more quickly. These smaller pieces act like sponges and are capable of absorbing toxins and pollutants. They are also more easily ingested by marine life. It is estimated that 1 in 3 fish now contain plastics in their gut.
A few weeks ago I was snorkelling off Nusa Penida with a manta ray. As I watched it gracefully fly through the water, filtering plankton, I couldn’t help but notice small pieces of plastic waste, even in the sea around Bali’s least populated area.
Near to Denpasar I was searching for sea kraits in the wave breakers. There appeared to be a healthy population but all of the snakes were nestled amongst copious amounts of plastic waste.
If you only do one thing on your trip to Bali, please make it refusing plastic straws with your drink.