August 1, 2018

Trash heroes and scavenger apps battle Bali ‘garbage emergency’

Five years ago, tour guide Wayan Aksara noticed that more and more visitors he showed around the Indonesian island of Bali were complaining about garbage on its once-pristine beaches. Bali’s mounting rubbish problem was also becoming personal for Aksara, who lives near Saba beach – an undeveloped area close to the holiday resort of Sanur, which faces a constant battle with trash washed onto its shores from a nearby river. “Every time we drove around, our guests … would comment about it not being clean and the large amount of plastic,” said Aksara. “They would say the trash is bad, that tourism here is not sustainable, and ask what we are doing about it.”

Aksara joined – and is now chairman of – Trash Hero Indonesia, a community group with more than 20 chapters across Indonesia and about 12 on Bali. It uses social media to organize weekly garbage-collection events for volunteers. Aksara, a father-of-two, also gives talks at schools and community events on how to manage waste better. Like many parts of Asia, the Indonesian archipelago of more than 17,000 islands has a fast-growing economy and population, and a huge coastline with many densely populated cities. These factors have created a “perfect storm” for garbage in the surrounding seas, said Susan Ruffo, a managing director at the U.S.-based non-profit group Ocean Conservancy.

Garbage collection services and infrastructure have largely failed to keep pace with rapid development. Now, as awareness rises, civil society groups like Trash Hero are playing an important role in Bali’s push to keep its famous beaches and temples free of rubbish. On Saba beach, surrounded by coconut trees and grazing cows, the garbage strewn about includes toothpaste tubes, shoes, plastic bottles, nappies, drinking straws and cigarette packets. “There is a plastic problem in Bali … We need time but we (have) started already,” Aksara told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. “Big things start from small things.”



Globally, more than 8 million tonnes of plastics are dumped into the ocean each year, scientists say – about one truckload per minute. China, Indonesia, Vietnam, the Philippines and Thailand are the top five culprits, said Ocean Conservancy’s Ruffo. Aside from the impacts on human health and wildlife, Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation, a 21-nation forum, has put the cost to the region’s tourism, fishing and shipping industries at about $1.3 billion per year. Stung by criticism, Indonesia’s President Joko Widodo – who has targeted “10 new Balis” across the archipelago to boost tourism – has been quick to act. Last year, Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan, Indonesia’s coordinating   minister for maritime affairs, launched a national action plan pledging up to $1 billion to cut ocean waste 70 percent by 2025. In June, local media reported the government had teamed up with Muslim clerics to tell their more than 100 million followers to choose reusable bags over plastic ones. Jenna Jambeck, a University of Georgia professor who specializes in plastic waste and marine debris, said Indonesia had become a leader on the issue out of a desire “to protect their amazing resources and beautiful country”.

Bali’s most popular tourist beaches are now cleaned of trash at least once a day by local authorities using heavy machinery. Mass clean-ups are organized at least three times a year on Bali and across Indonesia, bringing together tens of thousands of tourists and locals to tidy up communities. Despite this, the rubbish problem on Bali was so bad late last year that officials declared a “garbage emergency”. “If you’re finding plastic on the beach, it’s already too late,” said Ocean Conservancy’s Ruffo. “It should never be there in the first place. How do you stop it at source? There is no one fix or silver bullet.”



Tracing the origins of the trash on Bali’s beaches is difficult, but experts estimate up to 80 percent comes from the island itself. Rubbish collected from hotels and villages by informal workers is often dumped in rivers and then carried out to sea before eventually finding its way back to the coastline. A rise in the use of plastic packaging over the last decade, coupled with increased wealth and consumption, has exacerbated the problem, experts told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. Bali desperately needs to improve its landfill sites, invest in more recycling facilities, carry out regular trash collections and expand its piped water supply, they added. Businesses, meanwhile, should redesign products or change materials so they are easier to reuse or recycle, said Jambeck.

Governments also can make a difference by requiring a certain amount of recycled content in products, banning plastic bags or taxing single-use plastics, she added. Based in Bali’s cultural center of Ubud, local company Rumah Kompos has six trucks that collect waste from hotels and private homes. The trash is then separated at the company’s depot to recycle, turn into compost or send to landfill. A new $1-million recycling facility, funded by the government, will boost Rumah Kompos’ capacity later this year, said manager Supardi Asmorobangun. The facility will host local children at weekend green camps, with a cinema showing films on climate change and plastic waste, he said. The company has also begun piloting a free reusable water bottle scheme at schools in Ubud. “My dream for the next five years is for every village on Bali to do (rubbish) separation,” Asmorobangun said. “We must do it now, not tomorrow.”



New technologies and Asia’s army of informal rubbish collectors and scavengers are also key tools, experts said. At Sanur Kaja village in Denpasar, garbage gatherers are reaping the financial rewards of joining a pilot project run by Gringgo Trash Tech, reflected in a row of brand new motorcycles parked near the local authority’s waste collection facility. The company mapped out Denpasar and began a self-funded project last year using existing waste infrastructure to improve recycling and collection. Apps and GPS helped create a zoning system in the village of 5,000 residents, enabling garbage gatherers to become better-organized and more efficient. As a result, they can collect more rubbish from more households to increase their earnings. “If these guys stop working, this city will be shut down in less than a week,” said Gringgo co-founder Olivier Pouillon. Besides improving coordination with the local authority, Gringgo’s app provides the latest prices for recyclable waste. The system now serves about 60-65 percent of the village, with three times as much rubbish collected, said Pouillon. “The quickest way to stop the pollution is to track where the waste is going, and that’s exactly what we’ve done,” he said. [Reuters July 23, 2018]


Business good for Bali helicopter company during fast boat shutdown

A company chartering helicopters in Bali has seen an uptick in business with choppy conditions not allowing for fast boats to make crossings to popular destinations from Bali’s eastern coast. Dangerously high waves led Indonesia’s meteorology agency BMKG to recommend the shut down of fast boat routes last week from Padang Bai harbor to the Gili islands off of Lombok until August 25, or until conditions improve. Similarly, fast boats have not been operating regularly from Sanur to Nusa Lembongan and Penida, islands off of Bali’s southeastern coast.

Enter Air Bali. The helicopter charter has been hired by a number of tourists “stranded” in the Gilis and Nusa Lembongan, wanting to make it back to mainland Bali. Air Bali, which is actually Bali’s first helicopter company, predominantly provides helicopter tours, but also does medical charters, and film and aerial photography throughout the region when hired. “For the past three days, we have had many (helicopter bookings) when boats in Bali have not been operating,” Bali Air marketing manager Feny Soviani told Detik on Saturday. “Usually we take tours in Bali, sometimes make transfers every now and then, but with the boats being cancelled, this has caused an increase of up to 50 percent of the use of helicopters for transfer,” Soviani said. From July 19 to 20, Air Bali had about 100 passengers per day, he said. Foreign tourists were picked up and brought to Bali form Nusa Lembongan, Nusa Penida, and also Gili Trawangan.

Merry, one tourist from Sydney, said the helicopter was the best solution for getting back to Bali, even though it was much more expensive. “Before, we had booked a fast boat, but it was cancelled so we chose to take a helicopter,” Merry said upon landing in Bali’s Benoa Harbor. Even though there are much worse places than being stuck in Gili Trawangan, the Australian said they had to get back to Bali to catch a plane. “We decided to take a helicopter because we had to get back to in Bali. In three   days we will return to Australia from Ngurah Rai Airport,” she explained. But of course, escape via chopper is only for the financially comfortable. A helicopter ride costs USD450 per passenger from Nusa Penida or Lembongan to Bali, while a trip from Gili Trawangan to Bali runs for USD600 a head, according to Soviani. [Coconuts Bali July 24, 2018]


Welding sparks cause of Uluwatu blaze: Fire Department

A fire that shot up billowing columns of black smoke and  reportedly destroyed 14 villas in Bali’s Uluwatu on Monday was caused by welding sparks, according to the local fire department. The welding was being conducted on the second floor of the Ocean One wedding building project, Badung Fire Department Chief I Wayan Wirya confirmed with reporters on Tuesday. The extinguishing of the fire along with the whole cooling process took about five hours, Wirya said. “We deployed 15 fire engines including fire jeeps from various firefighting posts in Badung,” Wirya told Bali Post. South Kuta Police Chief I Nengah Patrem said the incident started when workers from the project were on their lunch break.

The workers tried and failed to extinguish the fire, which spread quickly with the wind to Blue Point Villas adjacent to the project. “Thankfully there were no fatalities,” Patrem told Sindonews on Tuesday. Although fortunately no one was killed or injured in the fire, losses were big, reaching an estimated IDR4 billion (US$ 275,500). Bali Police’s forensics has a team investigating the fire, according to Patrem. [Coconuts Bali July 25, 2018]


4m Waves to Occur in the Indonesian Waters

The Meteorology Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG) predicts sea waves at a height of 2.5 – 4 meters or in extreme and dangerous categories will occur within the next week in a number of waters in Indonesia. “The Indonesian waters are still in a condition that needs to be monitored with the next extreme wave expected to peak between Juy 24-25,” BMKG Chief Dwikorita Karnawati said in Jakarta on Saturday, July 21. The extreme wave is likely to occur in the southern waters of Java, Bali and Nusa Tenggara. High waves occur due to the peak of dry season or somewhere between July-August, particularly in the southern part of Indonesia including Java, Bali and Nusa Tenggara. [Netralnews July 22, 2018]


Benoa Port fire ‘totally unnecessary’: Fisheries Ministry

An investigation from the Indonesian Ministry of Marine Affairs and Fisheries looking into the massive fire that took out 39 fishing boats at Bali’s Benoa Harbor last week found that the blaze’s level of destruction was “totally unnecessary.” If the owners of the ships anchored at the port had complied with the rules, the July 9 fire would not have been such a big deal, says Fisheries Minister Susi Pudjiastuti.“So the incident in Benoa was unnecessary. If the ship owners obeyed the rules, they would not have all been piled up there,” Pudjiastuti said at a press conference in Jakarta on Tuesday, as quoted by Bali Post.

The cause of the fire was determined to be a short circuit on one of the boats, which quickly spread with all the diesel from the boat’s engine, the fiberglass in the boats, and of course the chaotic parking system. “It’s too crowded and there are many ships that should be moved, discharged, or even destroyed. But it’s because many of the boat owners do not want to do so, for fear of reporting taxes and so on,” the minister said. From the results of the investigation, there are more than 700 boats docked in Benoa. This number, according to the minister, is above the port’s capacity. Many of the boats don’t have recognized, registered owners, while a number were foreign owned and need to be returned to their countries of origin, says Pudjiastuti. The ministry will be working on breaking up the density of boats left at Benoa, she added. [Coconuts Bali July 18, 2018]