Last month our education team joined “Bali’s Biggest Clean-Up” in collaboration with One Island, One Voice. The day was designed to be an island-wide clean-up, bringing together passionate individuals, local environmental NGOs, businesses, students and government departments to raise awareness for Bali’s ever-growing waste management issues. Bali is receiving increasing bad press around the world for the dirty state of its beaches and oceans. One such video which has gone viral is the video of a diver swimming off Nusa Penida who has dived to enjoy the manta rays, but videos an ocean filled with garbage. See the link here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WLWN2rM-8sw

The video has been viewed more than 900,000 times on Facebook. Stories such as these are not one-off occurrences, but daily life on the southern beaches stretching from Nusa Dua to Canggu during wet season. This waste management problem is already negatively affecting the island’s reputation as a paradise island and has the potential to negatively affect human health as toxins from the waste leech into the environment.

Bali’s Biggest Clean-up aimed to activate all the citizens of Bali to participate in a neighbourhood clean-up in their area and encourage others to take care of Bali. In 2017, it was estimated that 19,000+ individuals participated in the island-wide clean-up, and the target was to beat that number! This year, over 100 coordinators registered to organize a clean-up in their areas. Our education team in Payangan registered to join the students of the middle school SMP 1 Payangan to clean-up Payangan market.

We felt that we did not just want to do a clean-up, but to give students a greater understanding of Bali’s waste management problem, why non-organic waste pollutes the environment and its dangers to humans and wildlife if disposed of inappropriately. We also wished to provide the students with a good example of a ‘zero-waste’ snack, to demonstrate that we do not need single-use plastic to cater for others.

The afternoon of the 24th of February arrived, and so did the rain! It seemed Mother Nature was not on our side as it poured all afternoon making a clean-up impossible. This was a little disappointing as we had prepared separated waste sacks for the students to divide items for recycling and residue for landfill so at least some waste could be useful again. Nevertheless, the show must go on! We were very pleased to see 40 students from the SMP 1 Payangan and 2 students from our Klub Lingkungan had still turned up!

Our education officer, Kadek, gave a presentation on Bali’s waste management issues, the differences between organic and non-organic waste,  the dangers of burning and/or burying non-organic waste and the 6Rs of waste management (Reduce, Re-use, Recycle, Re-think, Refuse and Repair). Bali’s waste management problem is very intimidating: Did you know Bali produces 3,000 tons of waste EVERY SINGLE DAY! This means Bali throws way 66 times the size of Candi Borobudur in waste EVERY SINGLE YEAR! If this continues, perhaps the landfill near Sanur will be bigger than Bali’s tallest mountains!

However, not all hope is lost, as we can all make small changes in our lifestyles – bringing our own bags when shopping, bringing our own water bottles and ordering food in organic wrapping. There are many examples of waste items that can be re-used or ‘up-cycled’ to make useful items again which may even be able to be sold. We also have the power to refuse! Do we really need a plastic straw with our drink? Or can we go without? Do we need to accept a plastic bag or can we bring our own?

We also showed students that there are alternatives we can use instead of plastic straws. We can refuse a straw, or use a bamboo, glass or metal straw which reduces plastic and can be reused many times. We can see from the graphic from One Island, One Voice, that plastic bags made up 30% of the waste items collected last year, plastic bottles / cups 16% and plastic straws 7%. All these waste items we have the power to reduce at the very least, if not eliminate from our lives.

We followed the presentation with our ‘zero waste’ snack break by providing students with fruit and nasi jinggo wrapped in banana leaf. We were pleased to see students remembered to bring their own re-useable water bottles. So, although it rained, our education team still made the most of the opportunity to teach. A day is never lost if you learn something. We hope the students will feel enlightened and inspired by our presentation to make some small positive changes in their lives.

We thank the Principal of SMP 1 Payangan, Ibu Agung Wahyuni, and Bapak I Nyoman Suandi As Waka Humas, Vice Principal, for the support of our event. We look forward to continuing our two middle school 10-week programs on waste management and wildlife over the next few months. (Amy Dunstone)

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