Eco Bali provides waste collection, recycling and composting for private residences and businesses in Bali. They customize their services to fit each client and provide educational programs for them to better understand sustainable practices. They are on the beaches, in the streets, alongside the riverbanks and in Bali’s schools. After the obligatory ‘reduce-reuserecycle,’ the Eco Bali mission insists we also rethink.
Paola first arrived in Bail 13 years ago, after a decade of conservation work in Indonesia. She immediately saw the need for the same type of activism here. “The development wasn’t as massive as it is now. Of course you see a growing number of places affected. It moves very fast. Too fast.” Sano, leader of Greeneration Indonesia, a Jakarta nonprofit dedicated to bringing sustainable practices to Indonesia’s urban centers, says efforts to control development are hindered by its velocity. “The speed of environmental degradation is faster than the improvement,” he said. “This we have to change. We have to create a big change.” “It’s a worry to tell you the truth,” Paola continued. “It brings up a different topic, how tourism is developing around the world and what people sacrifice in the name of this new industry.” In an article published in the Jakarta Post in March, the Indonesian government reportedly collected $62.7 million USD from visa-on-arrival fees in Bali alone. The article goes on to say 3.2 million tourists visited Bali. The amount spent by PCU over the last two years totals $60k USD. If a dollar from every incoming visitor went to clean coastal development, there would be enough for over 53 PCUs. That’s enough berapa to overhaul every developed surf break in Indonesia. The Indonesian government sends all that money to Jakarta and redistributes it through the country. There are a lot of problems to address, for example 200,000 Balinese still live below the poverty line. But with the recent fee hike on arrival visas, from $25 to $35 USD, and assuming tourism stays the same (it’s projected to grow) next year’s take will be no less than $112 million USD. Drips from that honey pot could clean the entire archipelago and create jobs in the process. Government funding is a great start, but real change requires cooperation from private industry, tourists and locals. “Frankly speaking I don’t see any sustainable plan being implemented in front of my face that is obvious,” Paola said. “I hope that there are some plans that have
been put in place but what we see- especially down south here- it’s not a very encouraging thing.” Eco Bali Recycling is partnering with companies around Indonesia to ensure that the goods they import to Bali are packaged with recyclable material. The government is onboard to support the initiative by mandating it, but it will be another eight years before that legislation solidifies. “Before [most packaging] was not recyclable in Bali,” Paola said. “Now we’re collecting about 300 tons every year, and that’s increasing.” Eco Bali’s clients are primarily households, offices and restaurants, with only 20 hotels onboard. The big fish producing the most waste are the smallest percentage of their client base. “There is a growing interest. We do consultancies with hotels and other large businesses, revising their system, how to involve the staff. We provide education. Are we flooded by those kinds of requests? I wouldn’t say so.” Businesses like hotels produce more waste and so the cost goes up, but any business generating enough trash to necessitate regular carting, or enough sewage that it requires a two stage system like the one at Uluwatu, is doing well enough that it can afford a sustainable solution. In fact, it could amplify their profits. “In some cases if they separate some of the recyclables we are able to buy them back. That’s an incentive. It’s something they can include in their image as well.” Ketut agrees. “Businesses right now, for example a hotel, what can they sell other than services, goods, a very good view? They can sell green.” The tricky step here is proper sorting of the trash, because while Eco Bali will pick up any pile of mixed rubbish, they cannot afford to buy it from a business unless it’s been properly sorted. For a business to profit off their waste it must be separated and for that there needs to be desire, education and training from the ownership level down to management and staff. Businesses following Eco Bali’s sorting guidelines send only 25-30% of their waste to a landfill. Without
proper sorting, 80% ends up in the landfill, and without proper collection none of it even reaches a sanctioned collection site. The government landfills are store-and-burn facilities, stinking swaths of trash blanketing the landscape and belching acrid smoke. They are polluting the groundwater and coastal ecosystems and efforts to properly line, maintain, and reduce the size of these collection sites have only just catalyzed from legislation passed in 2008. Each regency in Bali has its own collection site. The largest one, Suwung, belongs to Badung and Denpasar, but also receives deliveries from Tabanan and Gianyar. Thus, it handles almost all the legal dumping in South Bali, or about two thirds of the island’s daily 20,000 cubic meters of trash. Suwung isn’t going to replace Mt. Agung on the skyline, but it could fill the caldera several times over. “Suwung is quite big and it will take some time to control the whole situation,” Paola said. Even if all the deliveries were reduced to residual percentages, the incoming amount of trash would continue to engulf the overextended staff and resources. Assuming we can develop solutions to better manage the waste in Bali, we’re still a single grain of rice in a chain of diverse islands. “The world of waste is incredibly complicated,” Paola said. “It’s not just about what you throw in a bin.” Indonesia presents its own unique challenges as an archipelago. Maybe Uluwatu got rid of all its plastic bags, but I’ll still get one wrapped around my foot when I’m out surfing. I’m told it floated here from Java, or Lombok. Observers resort to vague references about ocean currents and project the waste problem onto other islands. It came from Indonesia, that’s the problem we have to fix. “What is viable for Bali may not be for Sulawesi or Papua,” Paola said. “It is a very complex system and it takes a lot of effort from many angles to start to contain the whole thing.” Geographic isolation further confounds the problem. If a tourist carries a recyclable bottle to Sumba for instance, it’s no longer recyclable. There are no facilities to handle it properly, central government is basically nonexistent and private companies cannot find costeffective ways to reach isolated areas. The bottle’s best chance at a new life is a trip across the sea, where hopefully it washes ashore in Bali and the Coca Cola bulldozers scoop it up. Or we could carry it back to civilization and dispose of it properly, so the next person can enjoy Sumba without burning plastic wafting in their face. Leaving inorganic waste in a community that’s never dealt with it before can upset the balance. “People have lost the ability to compost,” Paola said. “Thirty years ago people in Bali had very little packaging, everybody was throwing everything behind their house. The worst that could happen is that you would have a couple of banana trees and papaya trees growing on it.”