The Conde Nast Traveler has ranked Bali as the 5th best island in Asia in its 2019 Reader’s Choice Awards. However, is also one of the most polluted beaches in the world due to the sharp influx of tourism and poor waste management systems.
In a 2015 study in Science of the top 20 countries that poorly managed plastic waste, Indonesia was listed second. The nation generated 3.2 million tonnes of plastic in 2010, and nearly half of it ended up in the sea. China was the first, the United States comes at twentieth.
Due to tourism efforts and the effortlessly pristine beaches of Bali, it has seen an increase in the number of tourists arriving annually. Last year, in 2018, the number of arrivals at Bali’s Ngurah Rai International Airport reached 6,511,610 people, narrowly beating the target of 6,500,000, which was an increase of over 10% last 2017.
However, with the increase in the number of people visiting the island, pollution also saw a drastic increase. In an estimate, an average tourist produces about 1.7 kilograms of waste in a day as opposed to the 0.5 kilograms produced by the average resident.
Furthermore, the plastic waste problem polluting the beautiful beaches of Bali can also be attributed to the lack of infrastructure or an official plan coming from the Balinese government themselves. Only about half of the waste generated in Bali has been well managed, both recycled and transported to landfills. As a result, 33,000 tons of plastic waste ends up at sea every year.
Fortunately, with the recognition of the problem plaguing Bali, both the government and industry are starting to take action towards improving the way they address plastic use on the island.
In late 2018 Balinese Governor Wayan Koster announced a ban on plastic bags, polystyrene, and plastic straws. The Indonesian government has vowed to reduce plastic marine waste by 70 percent by 2025. And the Balinese government is converting the island’s biggest landfill, the 80-acre Suwung landfill in the capital of Denpasar, to an eco-park and waste power plant.
The government’s recent ban on single-use plastic bags, on the other hand, has raised concerns from the island’s plastic industry. Producers are adamant that waste management must be improved, in addition to reducing usage. The Indonesian Olefin, Aromatics, and Plastic Industry Association (INAPLAS) said the ban would also hamper the industry’s production.
Notably, there are other creative solutions to address the rising plastic pollution problem in tourist-flanked beaches such as Bali. However, the quickest solution to address the problem remains to be political will.
Boracay, which is arguably the most famous beach in the world, went for a 6-month closure from all forms of tourism — both local and international — after President Rodrigo Duterte demanded the island to be rehabilitated.
During the break, the island focused its efforts on updating infrastructure that hindered Boracay’s runaway growth. Hotels and other establishments with improper and inadequate waste management systems — including sewerage pipes, were closed down and remained so until they have made the necessary changes. Other establishments closed for good due to increased approval requirements.
Likewise, Bali can see a similar change, but without necessarily seeing a closure. Companies such as EcoBali and AvaniEco are one of the first companies to offer sustainable solutions. Trash separation is almost unheard of in Bali until today.