Plastic in Paradise

By: Elizabeth


A few weeks ago I had the rare pleasure of exponentially increasing my carbon footprint and flying to Bali! Although I was certainly stunned by the abundant natural beauty, it wasn’t long (50 steps or so to walk from hotel to beach) before I was struck by something else- the island’s overwhelming trash problem. I was there in the rainy season, a time when daily showers wash the island’s unsightly waste woes down to coast, concentrating refuse at the water’s edge. Not surprisingly, most of the trash I encountered was plastic, and I spent a morning gathering all the pieces I came across in a 1/4 mile range of beach in front of my hotel. The “pull” was overwhelming (I had to get 2 friends to help me carry it all), and though I had plans to photograph and/or “do creative things” with this booty, unfortunately one of the hotel staff mistook my pile of collected items for trash (!) and threw it out before I got a chance.

Below are some pictures I later took of plastic trash I found mingling with other natural “refuse” (flower petals, fallen leaves, coconuts) on the streets of Ubud. This “natural” (i.e. organic, biodegradable) sort of waste product is the type of “Trash” the island was used to dealing with until just recently when tourism and influences from foreign markets began to introduce other materials. Unfortunately Bali has become a prime example of a place where materials (plastic, among others) are introduced to a society before disposal methods or cultural understanding of these products are properly in place. Thus the result is an island where citizens end up throwing plastic packaging on the ground, because there is no historical familiarity with the material, and adequate infrastructure isn’t provided.

I will also include a link to a video which (though it provides a somewhat inaccurately optimistic picture, and is a bit boring at times) offers some more information on the subject:


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