Life without a garbage man, how bad could it be?
Bin day—it comes and goes each week for most of us, and it’s a pain in the arse if you miss it. Mostly resulting in an embarrassing slink around the back alleys with a sack over your shoulder like Santa Clause to spread out last weeks garbage between your neighbours bins. So just have a think what you would do if the truck never came.
Yeah… shit, right?
Well this is how it plays out for a lot of people. Governments of developing countries often fail to pave the way when it comes to issues like waste management and disposal—the Balinese government being no anomaly. Their overwhelming disregard for the rubbish problem challenges even Abbott’s blatant disregard for the environment.
It’s no surprise either that locals have little time, nor energy to give to the proliferation of waste. So as rubbish keeps piling up, who takes notice in these parts of the world?
A part from your average tourist who often has their own two-cents to add, it’s generally ex-pats living in the communities that stick around, rustle up the community to take notice and get something happening. Different groups have different tactics to take down this monster of a problem, most starting with beach clean ups.
There is Trash Hero who have been organising Monday afternoon clean-up crews across beaches in Thailand and Indonesia since their seed for waste free waters was planted in 2013. Look them up if you find yourself in South-East Asia, you won’t regret it—meeting a mix of locals and foreigners, and making a small contribution on your trip away, it’s an easy win-win.
In North Kuta, Bali, there is Bali Beach Cleanup Community Berawa Canggu who organise frequent beach clean ups, as well as Project Clean Uluwatu in Le Bukit. Foreigners here are working tirelessly to get locals understanding the importance of appropriately disposing of their rubbish, as well as gathering support to push local councils and the government to take action on plastic bags and the likes.
The unending energy each group gives despite the relentless rubbish is a serious inspiration. Unfortunately though most of the time their efforts go in vain, not discounting the educational aspect. However the failing infrastructure to collect and appropriately dispose of the trash these groups pick up means that much of it ends up back somewhere it shouldn’t.
Most bin collection services in villages across Bali tend to translate to a truck owner doing the pick-up rounds, sifting through the trash for valuable and refundable items, to only then dump the load in the nearest mangrove or riverbed. The distance to the main rubbish tip, Suwung, located in southeast Bali is too petrol heavy on the trucks and with little deterrent for the driver to do otherwise this is the result.
Which is why Peduli Alam—‘Care for the Nature’—is smashing the nail right where it needs to go. Based on the eastern-most point of Bali, Amed, they organise free weekly pickups for locals in villages along the coast and up into the hills. This is an invaluable and unmatched service across the island since other collection services set a family back around 15,000 IDR ($15 AUD) a month—out of the question for most.
Following the contour of the coast in Amed the bays and headlands become as predictable as the palm trees and so too do the green concrete waste blocks stenciled with “Peduli Alam – Anorganic, Plastik”, promoting the disposal of inorganic waste.
Litter engulfing the edges of any road in Bali is as common as the road itself. But these bins are re-shaping that belief. It is revamping the way communities function, and assisting them to manage a product they’ve never had to concern themselves with by creating a reliable and regular service.
Founded by a French woman called Charlotte Fredouille in 2009 and now being led by people from around the globe, this project is doing what governments need to see and adopt—community people creating alternatives to failing structures and processes. International sponsors like Yves Rocher keep the organisation afloat, keeping the garbage trucks on the road, paying wages for their four Balinese garbage men and affording them a base to work out of.
No doubt it’s slow going. Even during the upcycling workshops they host weekly for local kids it’s a challenge to get them chucking their wrappers in the waste bin and not out the window. But from little things, big things grow, and as long as there are conscientious individuals out there striving to make a difference where they can governments will be held in check. So next time you lift the red, yellow, blue or green lid, have a think.