Every off season, as the monsoon rains arrive and the onshore winds strengthen, Bali's western beaches are besieged by plastic. Beach cleaning operations make the tideline bearable, but until now there have been few initiatives to strike at the heart of the problem. Under mounting pressure from ocean goers, the Governor of Bali, Made Mangku Pastika, told local surfers that he would ban the manufacture, distribution and use of plastic bags on Bali if one million signatures were gained, so let's hold him to his word. Sign the petition HERE.
The sheer volume of plastic is unprecedented. The scary thing is that it’s getting worse every year. Jason Childs, Surf Photographer
The polyethylene plague stems from rampant dumping of everyday waste into inland lagoons and rivers. When the rains arrive and the rivers swell, vast quantities of rubbish flow directly into the ocean, where it meets other waste from Java, and is blown back landward by the westerly trade winds. Rubbish flowing from the East Coast follows an unobstructed route into the Indian Ocean.
The rubbish slick stretches from Ulus to Canggu, leaving Kuta Beach resembling a landfill site. “The sheer volume of plastic is unprecedented,” says 20-year Bali resident and surf photographer, Jason Childs. “The scary thing is that it's getting worse every year.”
The problem was at first dismissed by Bali's Governor as a "natural phenomenon which routinely occurs," thus absolving anyone from guilt. However, campaigners have persisted and forced a promise to ban plastic bags on the island if a petition to raise one million signatures is successful. On a global scale, this is not a groundbreaking promise, with several countries (most notably China) having already imposed an outright ban on thin plastic bags, but it does represent a shift in the dialogue in Bali, and could conceivably spread to Indonesia as a whole.
“It’s a really big, crazy amount of signatures we have to get. It’s a big challenge, but if we do it, it would change the world.”Sonny Perrussel, 13.
Disgusted by having to share the linuep with nappies, plastic and syringes, thirteen year old Balinese resident, Sonny Perrussel, was one of the campaign's founders. "It's just disgusting and really sad. It's really bad [for surfing] because it smells and your skin gets oily," he says. “It's a really big, crazy amount of signatures we have to get. It's a big challenge, but if we do it, it would change the world.”
This scheme will not bring an end to coastal contamination in Bali; insufficient infrastructure and plastic packaging will persist long after the last thin plastic bag is disposed of, but rarely is an opportunity such as this offered up, and it is a crucial step in the struggle. If you wish to help, sign the petition HERE. Spread the word on social media using the hashtag: #plasticbali