When I climbed Mount Rinjani in 2010, I was horrified by the litter along the trail.
I couldn’t believe so many travelers and hikers would climb the mountain and leave their trash behind. It was a huge wake-up call, and made me wonder how I could help educate others on reducing their environmental impact while hiking or traveling.
In 2012, I adopted a zero-waste lifestyle and started the Ekspedisi Nol Sampah (Zero Waste Expedition), which focuses on five of Indonesia’s mountains that had a serious problem with trash.
Each year, approximately eight million tons of plastic fills the ocean. Indonesia ranks second in the world for contributing the most waste, and is home to Citarum River – one of the most polluted rivers in the world.
Indonesia’s waste problem was triggered by the increase in consumption of single-use plastic. Traditionally, locals would use banana leaves or other natural resources to wrap food and carry items. After they were done with the wrapping, they’d throw it onto the ground.
Now, plastic bags are free and have become a part of daily life. Unfortunately, the habit of dropping food wrapping on the ground is still the same, except plastic doesn’t decompose.
With Indonesia in the spotlight as one of the world’s leading plastic polluters, the younger generations are becoming more aware, outspoken and are eager to fix the problem.
In 2016, the government tried to reduce waste by implementing a 200 IDR ($0.15 USD) tax on single-use plastic, during a trial period between February and May 2016.
There was opposition to this initiative by retailers and as a result, nothing has been done since.
The government is now taking action to clean up the Citarum River, starting in January 2018, which has been long polluted by factory and household waste.
The clean-up program promotes environmental awareness for participants, plus increases surveillance measures and penalties for polluters. Communities are also making a move to host clean-ups around Indonesia, from the cities and riverside towns to crowded beaches and in the jungle. But, clean-ups aren’t the only solution to the issue of plastic use.
Many schools and communities have provided education on environmental awareness, however this needs an in-depth, collaborative approach, with government funding and resources working together with businesses, communities and organizations.
The Indonesian government also needs to reform policies on manufacturer packaging and design, pushing major companies to adopt more environmentally friendly solutions to minimize the use of single-use plastics.
You can help solve the problem with waste by reducing your own environmental impact while you explore Indonesia. Here are a few key things you can do:
As you’d expect of an archipelago with around 18,000 islands and 700 languages, Indonesian food is highly regional, and cooking classes are a great way to discover the flavors.
Bali’s next door neighbors, Nusa & the Gili Islands, offer sanctuary for those seeking unspoilt landscapes, adventure, solitude or just a seachange.