Bali plastic pollution: 'Garbage emergency' declared as beaches covered in waste

For decades the Indonesian island of Bali has been a byword for tropical paradise, with tourists flocking from across the world to its perfect beaches.

But now the island has declared a "garbage emergency" after its most popular tourist beaches were inundated with a rising tide of plastic waste.

A 5.7-km stretch of beach on the island's western coast was declared an emergency zone last month after authorities realised that the volume of plastic being washed up was endangering the tourist trade.

Workers sent to Jimbaran, Kuta and Seminyak beaches, among the island's busiest, were reportedly carting off up to 100 tons of rubbish each day at the peak of the clean-up, AFP news agency reported. Plastic pollution on Bali has soared in recent years, becoming a major concern for visitors and residents.

"It is awful. People just don't care, it's everywhere, it's everywhere," said Gulang, a hotel worker who declined to give his second name. "The government does something but it is really just a token thing," he said.

He said much of the pollution on Bali is down to habitual fly-tipping that sees rubbish carried out to sea during the rainy season and blamed much of the problem on the indifference of many islanders to the issue. But he added that municipal refuse management is inadequate. He often resorts to using waste disposal facilities at the hotels where he works for domestic rubbish.

The island's government has made some moves to tackle the issue. Last year the island said it would aim to ban polythene bags by 2018, following a campaign launched by two school girls and endorsed by celebrities including Mick Fanning, the Australian surfing champion.

But it also sits in one of the most polluted areas of sea in the world, and much of what arrives on its beaches comes from other parts of the heavily polluted Java Sea.

Indonesia is the second biggest plastic polluter in the world after China.


The river of Citarum in West Java has been described as the most polluted river in the world with detritus dumped in it by nearby factories.

An estimated eight million tons of plastic were released into the world's oceans in 2010, according to a University of Georgia study. Indonesia accounted for up to 1.29 million tons, or more than 15 per cent of the total.

In March this year the Indonesian government pledged to spend up to $1 billion a year to clean up its seas. Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan, the coordinating minister for maritime affairs in Indonesia, spoke at a World Oceans Summit - held on Bali - and said the country would seek to reduce plastic pollution by 75 per cent by 2025.

The Bali clean-up comes after Blue Planet II caused a debate in Britain on the damage done to the environment by plastic. The Department for International Development is considering proposals to direct aid to help clean up polluted rivers in Africa and Asia believed to contribute disproportionately to plastics in the oceans.

The Telegraph, London

See also: Confessions of a Bali virgin: Temples, traffic and beach clubs

See also: 20 things that will shock first-time visitors to Bali