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← Greening the Island of the Gods

A short documentary film dumpster diving into Bali's garbage crisis and its grassroots solutions. For more info, visit:

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Showing Revision 4 created 04/14/2013 by ParadigmShiftProject ..

  1. In a lot of countries in the West,
  2. dealing with your waste, you're kind of separated from it,
  3. you put it in the bin and it magically disappears.
  4. Someone comes, it's all arranged for you. You don't have to think about it.
  5. And here, you have to make an extra effort, because there really isn't a system, so you have to
  6. think about it. You're confronted with it. So even though there's a really bad problem, there's a
  7. positive side, because you're forced to recognize the problem. You're forced
  8. to have to deal with it. So looking at that side of it, it's really an opportunity
  9. for people to kind of confront their
  10. their consumption, their pollution.
  11. Bali has a problem about every year
  12. our coastal, when it's the season once a year,
  13. a lot of plastic garbage landed in Kuta
  14. coastal. The government said this is because
  15. of the sea tides. It's not about the
  16. sea tides, from my opinion, it's about people still throw
  17. plastic garbage in the river or in the
  18. canals and they flow to the ocean, and the ocean will bring it back
  19. to the land.
  20. Waste management is a little bit the land of no one, no?
  21. I mean it's a little bit, you can almost do
  22. whatever you want without really being caught. / But the garbage problem
  23. affects everybody, rich and poor, and if you can't deal with that
  24. basic problem- pollution from your waste- then how are
  25. you going to deal with these large, more complex problems, like deforestation,
  26. destruction of the coral reef, and climate change. I mean, it's like
  27. the easy one to handle. / If you're talking about
  28. garbage problem in Bali,
  29. from my perspective,
  30. you can debate about it, but actually
  31. the original
  32. culture of people in Bali here, they're really
  33. clean, in their house. They wake up in the morning, like
  34. 5:00 early, and already
  35. clean their house, clean their yard, and
  36. before sunset also they're doing the same thing
  37. they clean it, and they throw all the garbage into
  38. the area in the household
  39. it's called "tegalang", it means
  40. the area that you plant or grow anything, or
  41. you grow a pig there or something. There is a special area
  42. to put this garbage. But a long long time
  43. ago, let's say 25 or 30 years ago,
  44. most of this garbage was organic
  45. and the Balinese, most
  46. of the Balinese, are still doing this culture,
  47. only the material of the garbage has changed.
  48. Now it's plastic. / Waste is a man-made concept.
  49. It didn't really exist, and it especially didn't exist before
  50. the 50s and 60s. Everything was organic; we didn't have all this man-made
  51. material. / Mostly things would have been packaged in banana leaves, so if you look at
  52. the offerings, your daily offerings which can be bought at the market,
  53. they are now being packaged in plastic bags, single use
  54. very thin, high density plastic that is used once
  55. and then thrown away because it's so thin you can't really reuse it.
  56. That would have all been packaged in banana leaves. But I also think that
  57. probably what's happened is the change in lifestyle - food also
  58. would have been packaged in banana leaves - a change of lifestyle so that
  59. now there's a lot more things available
  60. on the market. In the past, I don't think, offerings
  61. for instance as an example, would have been so widely
  62. sold as they are nowadays. But so many people are working,
  63. directly or indirectly, in the tourist industry,
  64. so that, you know, increasingly people are having to
  65. buy things which in the past they wouldn't have had to buy. / There really
  66. wasn't the culture of obsolescence that exists today.
  67. Traditionally in Indonesia, and also Bali of course,
  68. most people don't want to pay for waste disposal. They never had
  69. it. What they did with their waste was just throw it in the back, or burn it,
  70. or throw it in the river, and those habits spill over into businesses.
  71. People have a restaurant, or they have their hotel, and
  72. they take the same approach. They're just like "get it away, get it away", and
  73. they've never thought about having to pay for this. It's always, you can just throw it on the open lot
  74. or throw it in the river, and it's taken care of. And it's further complicated now
  75. in that you have a lot of large
  76. hotels that produce a huge amount of waste, and there's actually a lot of valuable stuff in that waste.
  77. And you have an informal scavenging sector that approach the
  78. hotels and businesses and say, "We will provide waste services for you
  79. for free, and we'll buy the waste."
  80. And what they're really interested in, they're actually buying the waste, they're buying access to the recyclables.
  81. So they're taking the stuff of value, but the stuff that has not value, guess where it goes:
  82. in the river, on the side of the road, wherever. You really get what you pay for
  83. and if you're selling you're waste or paying very little, you're going to have a dirty island.
  84. And for the tourism sector, obviously it's in their interest not to have a dirty island.
  85. So they have to make that leap and start realizing that if they want to have this thing
  86. taken care of, the stuff that doesn't have value, you're going to have to pay for it.
  87. Also another problem that we have in Bali is that plastic waste is often burned.
  88. and this can create all sorts of problems. Respiratory
  89. illnesses are the number one reported illness
  90. in Bali. And if you're breathing in
  91. plastic waste that's being burned, particularly
  92. at the speed that it's being burned, because it's not
  93. a high heat burning, which is less toxic, but it's
  94. usually a smoldering slow burning heap, so
  95. this can create all sorts of problems for human health and air quality.
  96. I mean think of all these things we have that
  97. are really pointless. A plastic bag, you use
  98. for 15 minutes, and then it's around
  99. for your grand kids and their grand kids.
  100. It's just insane.
  101. And it's not just plastic bags, there are some things you
  102. look around, from plastic straws to
  103. plastic bottles... I mean the idea that a plastic bottle consumes
  104. a typical 600ml plastic bottle
  105. needs a quarter of it in oil
  106. to produce that bottle is just mind-boggling. When you're looking at that plastic bottle
  107. you're not buying water; you're buying crude oil.
  108. And then, in Bali, people don't realize how many bottles
  109. there are. Just water bottles, there are over 3 million
  110. bottle a day, and that doesn't include all the other kinds of beverages,
  111. from your soda to your energy
  112. drinks and things like that. And even if you were able to recycle
  113. 90% of those, you would still have
  114. 300,000 of them being thrown in the
  115. environment every day. It's not acceptable. It's nonsense.
  116. In Bali we produce 20,000
  117. cubic metres of waste everyday. And if we say that 15% of that is
  118. plastic, then that means we're producing
  119. 3,000 cubic metres of plastic waste everyday.
  120. I think that it's an incredibly valuable resource; it's mined,
  121. oil is drilled from the ground and it creates this
  122. product which is incredibly useful, so it should be rightly
  123. respected as a resource, and used and used and reused
  124. and reused again and again and again. Our argument
  125. as a campaign is not with plastic; it's about our consumption,
  126. and our habits around this disposable
  127. culture that we've created. / I mean people come to Bali
  128. and they've looked at the brochure; they've heard about it or read about it,
  129. and seen stuff, and they have this image of what Bali is,
  130. and there have been a few times where they've been
  131. quite shocked at what happens, what actually is the situation. There
  132. was a story, where I was asked to help with this hotel, they had had a
  133. problem with garbage that right in front of their hotel entrance, literally,
  134. there was a huge garbage dump, and it would burn almost every
  135. day, and the smoke would go right through the hotel's lobby,
  136. and through their restaurant and through to the beach, and it wasn't good for business,
  137. as you might suspect. So they had tried every, they had called
  138. every government office, I think even calling up to the Governor to help deal with this problem,
  139. and nothing every happened. And so out of desperation they asked for help, and
  140. I went down there and did a quick little survey,
  141. you know, I was working for an NGO back then and they were willing to pay us to do it,
  142. and at the time we thought quite a bit. If we knew how much money they were losing
  143. we would have asked for more. But we did a survey of what was going on
  144. and what we discovered was that most of the garbage burning in front of the hotel was their own,
  145. that they had created their own problem. And why that happened was they were
  146. selling their garbage to the local trash guy
  147. and he was just taking what he wanted out of it and dumping everything in the traditional dump.
  148. In fact, the dump had been there before the hotel.
  149. So no one in the hotel had bothered to go across the street and look, and they would have seen their logo.
  150. They would have seen it. And their reaction at first was, "well, let's fire
  151. this guy and get rid of him," and I said, no, that's not going to work. If you replace him
  152. it's going to be the same thing. The problem is not this guy dumping here, the problem
  153. is you're asking him to pay for this garbage.
  154. You should be paying him to take care of it properly, to dump it at
  155. the landfill; a novel idea! I mean they really
  156. were kind of accustomed to selling their garbage. It's completely crazy!
  157. And they realized that they needed to change,
  158. and it was easy to make the decision, because they were losing tens of thousands
  159. of dollars a day. I mean, they were losing a lot of money. So to switch over and pay
  160. a local guy a few hundred dollars a month to take care of it made a
  161. lot of sense. / So every year, Bali has I think it's
  162. 4 million domestic tourists and 3 million international tourists.
  163. Now on top of that, we have a population that's just about reached
  164. 4 million. So you think of that in terms of
  165. the resources that every tourist
  166. uses, and it's estimated that a tourist will consume 4 times the amount
  167. of an average local person. What's happening with all
  168. the rubbish they're producing? / There might be a dump nearby that's
  169. by a river that's going out, and you're wondering why there's all this garbage in the ocean.
  170. It might be coming from the places where you're staying,
  171. or eating at. / One of the main
  172. proponents against the illegal dumping was always saying,
  173. "they make the money in Ubud, and we get the trash."
  174. You know, maybe it's the location of it,
  175. and also the agreement and acceptance of
  176. the past decision makers to allow the trash
  177. to come in. So they said, "oh great, we have a place, and there's an agreement,
  178. and look, our trash is actually helping you to build a road,
  179. that's going to connect it to land that
  180. was otherwise inaccessible." So, I truly
  181. believe that they felt there was a mutual benefit
  182. exchange happening. It only was until
  183. recently that they realized maybe this deal isn't so good,
  184. and put a stop to it, and
  185. the kepala desa, the head of the village, was actually able to implement that,
  186. and endorse it and make it happen.
  187. I think the Bali government has already made a road map: "Bali go Clean and Green".
  188. It's like the big agenda in our government;
  189. how to make Bali more sustainable, more eco,
  190. more green, you know. Actually if we see
  191. the road map, it's already good. I mean, the short term
  192. planning, the medium term planning, the long term planning, it's already good.
  193. And then, the policy of this
  194. planning, is based on the 3 big main
  195. agenda. First, education, formal or informal.
  196. And the second: involve the private sector. I mean,
  197. like companies, or the corporations that make
  198. business in Bali, because tourism is the most
  199. main business, but also the garbage or the
  200. pollution is also made by this big industry.
  201. And the third is
  202. involve the peoples' action. I mean,
  203. the community action. / There's actually a lot of people out there that are
  204. concerned about the problem, but they don't know what to do, and they're completely,
  205. you know, frustrated with it. And when you start setting these examples
  206. they see that and then they come to you, and that's what's happening.
  207. I believe there are lots of grassroots movements
  208. in Bali, made by NGOs
  209. or made by just social local
  210. organizations, already making a good movement about
  211. and making awareness to the locals
  212. on how to separate the garbage
  213. and how to make compost from the organic
  214. garbage, but right now, from
  215. my perspective, it's just a small movement.
  216. So, I think to make it effective,
  217. we should involve, or put social pressure on,
  218. the government to make a local law, like 'perdau' or 'awig awig'
  219. to make it more significant, to make a more significant change,
  220. I mean, to make it more effective and efficient.
  221. We consulted with the community leaders, and we heard that they have
  222. big plans for their village to try and revitalize their economy here
  223. with a cultural and ecotourism
  224. program that just got launched about a year and a half ago.
  225. In addition to helping them to kind of
  226. formulate their tourism program, because they asked us for some
  227. advice from a foreigner perspective,
  228. we also gave advice on the waste management stuff, which
  229. the community had been working on, some members of the community had been working on
  230. for 15 years, because this illegal dump site
  231. started about 15 years ago, and there are people in the community that have
  232. protested against it since then.
  233. Coincidentally, about
  234. a year after we started the project in this community, the illegal dump
  235. site had been shut down after 15 years of operating,
  236. which, for us, felt like a monumental success for the village
  237. to achieve that. It was really quite a big deal.
  238. Still, it's not perfect right now, because
  239. you know, the waste still has to be handled, but the decision to stop
  240. the incoming 14 trucks a day of waste
  241. from outside of this village that's not even theirs was a huge
  242. decision that we felt really proud of
  243. the people for being able to achieve that.
  244. I definitely think it could be replicated in other villages.
  245. Of course the joint shared vision and desire has to be there.
  246. Many times, people kind of throw their hands up in the air, and are like "what am I going to do?" but there are actually a lot of
  247. things you can do, and you have to start, maybe small in the beginning,
  248. but you have to start. / If you have a small organic farm
  249. in your house, even a small one,
  250. it will effectively decrease
  251. the garbage problem. For example,
  252. like my kitchen waste:
  253. more or less, like 70% is
  254. organic, so I have a compost box, I just put this
  255. 70% of organic [waste] into the compost, because this will go
  256. back again to nature, you know, back again to my
  257. vegetable plot, and then the rest, 30%,
  258. most of this 30% not organic
  259. garbage is recyclable,
  260. and has an economic value, too, because
  261. in Bali we have 'pemulung'. Pemulung are like the garbage
  262. collectors. Sometimes they buy it from you,
  263. from every house. They will travel around [saying], "berang bekas,
  264. berang bekas," meaning like "garbage, garbage," and then
  265. they will buy it. They have a really good value for plastic, for bottles, like
  266. beer bottles, for paper, for
  267. aluminium, metal, steel, copper, they have
  268. a really really good price to buy it from the people,
  269. and most of this 30% not organic
  270. garbage from my kitchen is recyclable, so you can
  271. sell it, or just give it, to this garbage collector,
  272. and this 25% will be going
  273. to recycle, to be something good, new goods, and
  274. so only 5% is your actual
  275. garbage, what we call really garbage. This is
  276. like the soft plastic material, like biscuits,
  277. 'kemasan' biscuit packaging, or plastic bags.
  278. So, from my opinion, if there's only
  279. 5% garbage going to the dumping place because we cannot do anything with it
  280. I think the dumping place would not
  281. be so full so quickly. / So I think the most practical way now
  282. that we in Bali don't have a waste management facility
  283. yet, a proper one, is to do waste prevention: each household
  284. can do that, like bringing your own bag, bringing your own
  285. container, bringing your own bottle, so you don't
  286. add more waste. I know it looks just small.
  287. "But it's only one plastic bag!" But
  288. well, I worked with a group of students once, and we asked them
  289. to observe how many plastic bags entered the household
  290. each [day], and one student came
  291. and said, "5 plastic bags". Ok, let's calculate.
  292. In a month, that will be 150.
  293. And how many people, how many families, more or less
  294. in your banjar (village)? She said, "55". That means, in a year,
  295. there will be more than like 10,000 plastic bags. That's a lot.
  296. This happened to me, because when we're talking about plastic, for example,
  297. the big problem in Bali, I tried to live a one
  298. month "plastic diet".
  299. We call it "plastic diet". Just to get
  300. the data about how difficult it would be to live without,
  301. to minimize as much as possible using plastic.
  302. It can be done.
  303. We go shopping, we just bring our own bags,
  304. our own carrier, so it's not so difficult.
  305. For most of our customers, we provide them with a monthly recycling report.
  306. So, they get a sheet of paper that says, ok these are the things that
  307. you were able to recycle: this much aluminum, this much plastic bottles, this much
  308. of this other plastic, paper, blah, blah, blah. And then we go down the list of other
  309. things that were man made but weren't recyclable.
  310. You know, styrofoam, or some hazardous stuff. And then we go down into
  311. the organics and explain to them the food waste we collected and all that, so they have a record
  312. of what actually they are producing. And at first,
  313. you know, they're like, "oh, that's cute, that's nice, whatever," but after a while, when they look
  314. back and they see, over 6 months or a year, they realize
  315. actually how much waste they produce. And in some cases, it's quite
  316. shocking. So it's kind of a wake-up call, and it makes them realize that
  317. yes, they are polluters; they have to think about their impacts.
  318. I think tourists have an enormous responsibility for
  319. the impacts that they create on any country that they visit.
  320. They contribute a huge amount to the amount of waste that needs
  321. to be dealt with, so, you know,
  322. they can make a positive impact by perhaps the hotels that they
  323. choose to stay at, making sure, asking, "ok, what's your
  324. environmental policy? What do you do with your waste? I want to make sure
  325. that the waste that I'm creating at this hotel, or what the hotel is creating
  326. is ending up at the right place, not going and polluting the rivers
  327. and going into the ocean and actually degrading the whole
  328. tourist experience." The whole point of going to a place
  329. for a holiday, a nice holiday, is to relax, maybe enjoy the sea, but if there's
  330. a bunch of trash in it, then obviously it's not really
  331. what you came here for. So you can ask your hotel what they do with their stuff.
  332. You can, before coming here, make a pledge
  333. to support a local organization that's maybe working to support
  334. the environment, to keep the place that you're coming to visit beautiful and
  335. functioning, and you can donate to those organization, those
  336. non-profits, and support projects like that.
  337. And, on a larger scale,
  338. I would like to see the places,
  339. the tourist destinations, perhaps saying that
  340. 1% of money that you spend on hotel
  341. or food or airline tickets goes to
  342. supporting an environmental fund, or a green fund. There are places
  343. that have done that effectively, like Gili Trawangan, off the
  344. coast of Lombok, has the Gili Ecotrust, so
  345. you know, just a small amount, I think it's a dollar per day per tourist goes to
  346. that fund, and that helps to do the waste management
  347. and addresses different environmental issues. / Everyone wants
  348. to be green, and basically the first phase of that is you have some pioneers
  349. that are being green, and then everyone jumps on the bandwagon and says they're green, and
  350. more often than not, unfortunately a lot of people are just saying they're green.
  351. They might have good intentions, others might not, but it's just a marketing element, and they say "We're green!"
  352. or "We recycle, we do that," but as people,
  353. as customers and people understand that it's not enough just to say
  354. that, they have to prove it, they have to explain what they do. And even
  355. you know, just asking questions and that, it adds up,
  356. it helps. / At the top of any waste management
  357. plan should always be prevetion
  358. first, then reduction, and then you start looking at, ok,
  359. well the waste is already there, what can we do with it? Can we reuse it? Ok, if we can't
  360. reuse it, can we recycle it? But it's got to be in that
  361. pyramid of priorities. / So what the coalition is doing right now
  362. is to encourage business to do waste prevention, we
  363. call it Plastic Detox Bali. Our community, right
  364. now, people right now, are addicted to plastic. They
  365. tend to freak out, like "WHAT? No plastic allowed??"
  366. We have to keep reminding, we're not anti-plastic;
  367. we need plastic. But you need to learn how to use it wisely.
  368. So, to help them
  369. ease this addiction,
  370. I guess, Plastic Detox Bali.
  371. There's a series of actions that business can
  372. take. Like first, we ask them not to provide plastic bags
  373. for free. / What I think should be done on Bali,
  374. and perhaps in the rest of Indonesia, but certainly in Bali, is
  375. first introduce a bag tax. Make people pay
  376. for it. Pay for the plastic bag. Pay for the privilege.
  377. Pay for the mounting external costs, because
  378. then hopefully people will realize this is not free. People think it's free now
  379. and they think it's modern. They think free, modernity, nice, ya? "Asik, dong?"
  380. But it's not. Because what about the cost of
  381. cleaning it up over the long term. What about the health costs incurred by people who inhale
  382. the dioxins created by burning it. What about the people who eat it
  383. in their fish? What are the public health costs?
  384. You know, all these costs. I mean, we're talking millions and millions and millions
  385. of dollars. So you want to make waste management, or you want to do
  386. waste reduction? Which one is more cost efficient, cost effective?
  387. For a government that's struggling, that can't even provide water to the residents in
  388. Denpasar, there are so many other crises that are impending on this
  389. island, you know, plastic should be the easiest thing. Just put a bag tax, and then
  390. when people already realize, there's already public support, "hey,
  391. bags are expensive," then you do a bag ban. Ban it.
  392. Ban the single use plastic bag. Ireland? 92% reduction in
  393. 2 weeks!!! They just banned it outright, and it's possible
  394. in a place like Bali: it's an island. You could just ban the bag.
  395. And people would just have to learn to deal with it. You learn.
  396. The first or second time you go to the store and you don't have a bag, and you're either
  397. forced to buy a bag or you've got to go home and get one, you won't forget again.
  398. You know, instant behavior shift. Instant.
  399. And people will grumble, and [complain], but grow up!
  400. We have to be adults about the environment we live in. / Students are the
  401. next leaders to come in the very near future, so
  402. they need to be able to have access to
  403. the kind of information and education to be made aware.
  404. And often times, not just in Indonesia, but in many
  405. countries, the school curriculum is outdated. It's not relevant to
  406. the current issues that we're facing in modern times, so
  407. to be able to infuse the perhaps outdated
  408. or "has-room-to-grow" curriculum,
  409. we feel that would be really effective, and get the kids excited.
  410. We started to select schools in different areas, many of them were in
  411. a little bit more remote areas, where they didn't really have any
  412. collection service, so typically the school would be burning
  413. the waste, or throwing it in the river at the back. We had very good
  414. discussions in a high school, in which, without
  415. wanting to say what was the solution, we were asking,
  416. "What do you think should be done, what can you do
  417. to reduce waste in your daily situation?"
  418. And without having to say anything, because we had refreshments
  419. around that were served by the school, students went straight away,
  420. "This can take away, this we can reintroduce the banana leaf,
  421. don't use that and that."
  422. So, I think actually the high schools
  423. should be a pretty good target. / A lot of programs, they don't need a lot of
  424. money, but they need some. And if you could help
  425. in the fundraising efforts for getting these programs off the ground
  426. or sustaining them, it would be a huge, huge help.
  427. When you think about it on that global scale,
  428. what will future communities do?
  429. The solution for me, is back again
  430. to the government, because
  431. the people, most of the people here, already agree about
  432. the garbage separation or the recycle, all the
  433. slogans, like "Reduce, reuse, recycle"
  434. or "Bali go clean and green".
  435. Everyone already agrees on those slogans. But what we're talking about now
  436. is after the slogan, or after the
  437. the idea, something that you wrote, the words
  438. you have to do the action right now, right?
  439. So what we're waiting for now, we as the grassroots movement, or
  440. the people still doing what we believe it, what we're waiting for
  441. is the government law to support this action.
  442. To institute that change on such a massive
  443. scale, wow, I mean, the government
  444. needs to intervene, and it needs to intervene from the top
  445. all the way down to the village.
  446. Every level, you know, and the way, with regional autonomy in Indonesia,
  447. ya, the Governor can say it should be like this, but then the Bupatis
  448. need to follow suit. They need to care; they need to really care.
  449. I think now the government still doesn't have any serious concern about the garbage
  450. but I do believe, especially the Balinese
  451. local government, because government in Bali is quite
  452. unique, we have a formal government and an informal government, and they are both equally strong,
  453. 50-50. So if both these governments
  454. had a really serious concern about the garbage or waste
  455. issue, it would be socialized
  456. effectively in the public. We, people here,
  457. would support 100%. So make it real.
  458. "Refuse plastic bags, refuse plastic bags,
  459. plastic, plastic, plastic,
  460. refuse plastic bags. Bali is a beautiful island,
  461. plastic bags are giving it a scaly skin,
  462. Let's play music, and support a beautiful Bali without plastic."