NOW! Bali speaks to the ROLE (Rivers, Oceans, Lands, Ecology) Foundation, who since 2007 has recognised the growing social and ecological problems on the island. ROLE tells us more about Bali’s current waste crisis, the global ocean crisis and their newest plans to open their ‘Zero Waste to Oceans’ centre.

NB July 2016 Charity Clean Oceans

Despite being a problem everyone is aware of, Bali continues to be blemished by the seasonal surge of rubbish that washes upon its shores every year. Yet, even with the just-as-seasonal surge of social media posts shouting disgust online that follows, it seems the next year this annual blight returns once again.

It’s easy for us to complain, but rarely are we proactive enough to make a change in our everyday lives. We continue to throw our waste in the bin and it gets taken away with that satisfying ‘out of sight, out of mind’ mentality. Then, it all comes back to haunt us when we see it wash up on the beach – not quite ‘out of sight’ anymore.

The scary part is that the rubbish that makes its way to our shores is but the tip of the iceberg in comparison to what’s currently ‘out there’ in the seas. The ROLE Foundation puts this into perspective for us: Globally, there is an estimated 150 million tons of plastic in the ocean, meaning for every 5 tons of fish, there is 1 ton of plastic. At a national scale, Indonesia has become the second largest marine pollutant after China, contributing 3.2 million tons of plastic waste into the ocean every year. Bali is no saint either; one landfill on the island, Suwung, is quite literally overflowing. One ‘rubbish mountain’ is as high as a 14-storey building! Such landfills have little to no waste management systems in place. Often, waste isn’t even separated, thus nothing can be repurposed or recycled. As tourism and residents only increase on the ‘paradise’ island, waste will only increase and these mountains will keep growing.

Whilst the scale of this issue is rather daunting, the ROLE Foundation says we have to remember that albeit a global problem, we have to think local, focusing on the things directly around us in order to make actual change. They also said that if we want to save the oceans, the answers and actions start on land.

ROLE’s ultimate objective is to establish their ‘Zero Waste to Oceans’ Education and Demonstration Centre. This centre will focus on training local populations on the problems of rubbish and then teach techniques of managing their waste – from basic waste separation and composting to ways of reusing glass and plastics. New technologies made at a smaller scale, such as turning plastics into usable fuels, are but some of the practices they wish to introduce.

Dreamland beach

Through education and training, local people can then go back to spread further awareness in their own communities. ROLE foresees the difficulties of people being able to apply their new knowledge into rural areas, which will be quite unlike the specially designed centre, which is why an on-going job for the foundation will be to help implement plans, systems and construction. With this diffusion of eco-friendly waste management around the island, we will see a decreased dependency on landfills and increase in the positive uses of recycled or repurposed materials. ROLE plans to work closely with the Alila Hotel Group and Alila’s environmental construction specialist, Piet van Zyl, who are underway in their commitment to send zero waste from their resorts to landfills.

ROLE Foundation’s immediate focus now is to raise the funds to create this education and demonstration centre, in Nusa Dua. One way they are doing this is through big events like Waterman’s Week (1-10 July, 2016). Waterman’s Week combines a numerous water-based activities and competitions, from sailing, diving, beach clean ups and even a mermaid beauty contest to raise awareness and funds to help Bali’s waste management crisis and therefore surrounding oceans.

Whilst not working on the centre, the ROLE Foundation continues to spread awareness online, train and assist local organisations in beach clean ups and have plans to educate local governments in the principles of Zero Waste/Full Circle Waste Management.

NB July 2016 Charity Zero Waste Centre Map

ROLE thinks Bali is the place for testing environmental management. Its smaller, more compact communities (both local and expatriate) help to enable change and spread awareness, “It’s like the Silicon Valley of the sustainable world!” says one member.

The thing is, Bali’s natural beauty, culture and energy are such motivating factors because everyday, when we look around us, we are constantly reminded on what we stand to lose. Hopefully ROLE is right and this little island can be the world’s Petri dish in creating a more sustainable living environment.

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Edward Speirs

Edward Speirs

Edward, or Eddy as he prefers to be called, is the Managing Editor of NOW! Bali and host of the NOW! Bali Podcast. He enjoys photography, rural travel and loves that his work introduces him to people from all walks of life.