Stab Magazine | A 14-Story Pile Of Trash Has Become A Symbol Of Indo's Pollution Problem

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A 14-Story Pile Of Trash Has Become A Symbol Of Indo’s Pollution Problem

However, the world’s second biggest producer of plastic, Indonesia, might have just solved the world’s trash problem. 

news // Sep 13, 2017
Words by stab
Reading Time: 3 minutes

Serengan island (or Turtle island), on Bali’s east coast, was once famous for the some of the most consistent, rippable waves on the island – as well a breeding ground for Bali’s abundant turtle population. Today, with its 14-story high pile of trash, it has become a cartoonish symbol of Indonesia’s trash problem and it’s only getting worse.

Indonesia is the second biggest contributor of marine plastic in the world behind China, with four of its rivers ranking among the top 20 most polluted in the world. Between 1.15 million and 2.41 million tonnes of plastic enters the ocean every year from rivers of which Indonesia produces around 200,000 tonnes worth of plastic from rivers and streams, mainly from Java and Sumatra.

“It’s bizarre dude, it’s heavy,” begins Indonesian Pro, Betet ‘Da Guy’ Merta.

“People from the hotel, they collect the trash and they just dump it in the river because it’s cheaper (than disposing of it correctly). The taxi driver he don’t care (about the ocean). The guy in the restaurant, he doesn’t know better so he just he throws it in the river…Not a lot of Indonesians surf. They don’t use the ocean, so they don’t care,” he explains

Enter Avani, an environmental start-up that might have come up with a solution not only to Indonesia’s trash problem but the world’s. The brainchild of biology graduate, Kevin Kumala, Avani has figured out a way to make plastic out of biodegradable materials such as corn starch and cassava. Their products include cassava-plastic ponchos, plastic bags, food packaging, and covers for hospital beds, with the company able to produce four tonnes of biodegradable plastic material a day. With an increase in support from the Indonesian government and private financing, the factory has the capacity to produce five times that.

“Studies have proven that every single plastic bag produced by human kind still exists today in form or another as they take up to 200 years to decompose. We are able to replace these with sustainable resources which are purely generated by plants and will eventually become compost for our mother nature,” he says.

The Indonesian government has pledged to work with the brand “to create a roadmap to be plastic free by 2018” but the wheels are moving slowly and several scholars have expressed serious scepticism over the Indonesian government’s commitment to solving the problem. In what can only be described as diabolically bad planning, Indonesians authorities have implemented next to nothing in waste management infrastructure and policy despite decades of tourism and hotel development in places like Bali, and decades of single-use plastic consumption throughout the rest of the dense archipelago.

“Currently Indonesia’s Law on Waste Management doesn’t have any specific reference to plastic waste,” writes Thomas Wright from the University of Queensland.

There are also concerns that certain varieties of biodegradable plastics can be more poisonous to the environment than current plastics if they break down in a fragmented form which then leaches toxins into the food chain. In an attempt to disprove this, Kumala from Avanieco drank a cup of dissolved bioplastic leaves for CNN’s benefit.

“I wanted to show this bioplastic would be so harmless to sea animals that a human could drink it,” he said, adding: “I wasn’t nervous because it passed an oral toxicity test.”

Betet, along with the rest of the Indonesia’s surfing and fishing communities, aredemanding common sense prevail and a solution found to the trash problem before it’s too late.

“The local surfers understand what is going on because we need to protect the beach, the surfer protects the beach because we live on the beach. If the beach die we die too,” he says.

“This in Bali, this is a tourist place, it’s famous as paradise, as the nicest island, why you not understand? Let’s fix this….All the hotel, all the surfer, all the Banjar, let’s do this, let’s keep the beach clean,” he says.

“This in Bali, this is a tourist place, it’s famous as paradise, as the nicest island, why you not understand? Let’s fix this. People not surfing here, they don’t give a shit…All the hotel, all the surfer, all the Banjar, let’s do this, let’s keep the beach clean but they not care, only surfer care. It’s fucked up, it’s pretty heavy,” he says.


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