Shocking images of divers swimming against waves of plastic rubbish in the waters off Nusa Lembongan, have recently surfaced through social media. The photos and videos show seas around Lembongan Island choked with a scary amount of rubbish, highlighting the catastrophic effects of over-population, over-use of plastics, and a lack of effective waste disposal systems.
These devastating images are contributing to the growing global awareness about the impact our plastic waste has on the oceans. As a result, many countries are now working to stem the plastic tide by banning single use plastic items like straws and shopping bags, improving recycling practices, and coordinating wide scale ocean clean-ups.
The fourth most populated country in the world, Indonesia’s ever-growing population and huge surge in tourism creates large amounts of waste. Visitors to Bali often comment on the highly visible rubbish problem, rice fields littered with plastic bags and rubbish, gutters and drains that collect trash, and of course the rivers that feed all this waste into the ocean. It mars the once pristine landscape that we all fell in love with.
The amount of rubbish produced in Bali however, is no more than anywhere else in the world. What is different though, is that unlike in wealthier nations, Bali lacks the means to deal with rubbish properly.
Most Balinese live on day-to-day wages, barely enough to cover basic household costs, and to them waste disposal is a luxury they can’t afford. Council rates that pay for bin services while commonplace elsewhere in the world, are a foreign concept in developing regions like Bali.
Happily though, there is a growing band of expats and local people who are working together to improve rubbish removal and recycling practices in Bali. Trash Hero is a great example of this, and every day their local chapters work within Bali communities to change things for the better. Our friends at Scuba Center Asia work with two different organisations to assist with the collection of debris on the island. Once a week they work with Trash Hero Lembongan to work within the community and do beach clean ups.
Worldwide Scuba Center Asia is a PADI 100% AWARE recognized IDC Dive Resort. This means that Scuba Center Asia supports the Project AWARE Foundation (www.projectaware.org) for their Conservation Initiatives and Fight Against Debris initiatives. Click through to read more about the work Scuba Center Asia does to support Project AWARE. (https://www.projectaware.org/diver/scuba-center-asia).
In July this year, the staff and divers from Scuba Center Asia organised a ‘Dive Against Debris’. They do these dives almost every month to collect the rubbish they can and protect the marine life they love. Armed with mesh bags, dive bags and tools, the team went out to Lembongan Reef, just off the coast of Lembongan Island, to collect as much rubbish as they could during the dive.
Thankfully the dive sites they visited that day were relatively clean, however they still managed to collect nearly 4kgs of rubbish. While that doesn’t sound like a lot compared to the distressing videos and images that have been across media networks, if you think about the weightlessness of plastic bags and straws, 4kgs is in fact a significant amount of ocean pollution. The usual suspects such as plastic bottles and bags, beer bottles, fishing line and plastic fragments were all pulled from the ocean, as well as more unusual items like snorkelling gear, a mouth piece and even a battery for an old Blackberry style mobile phone. One of the divers found a fully intact, tall, cocktail glass – river rubbish or thrown overboard by someone who had one too many?!
I’m not a diver but I have seen firsthand what plastic waste does to the rivers near my home in Sanur. Like so many of us, I am now learning about the disastrous impact that pollution is having in the oceans, destroying coral reefs, poisoning aquatic ecosystems and the fish that live in them, and then in turn the people who feed on the fish. Now is the time for action. Say no to plastic bags. Carry re-fillable water bottles. Reduce your use of single use plastics. Let’s work together to restore the oceans of Bali, creating a paradise once more for generations to come.