Landfills across Bali have been engulfed in fire over the last three weeks, as dry heat and no rain have created the perfect storm for flames to rage through the towering trash heaps. This has caused a domino of challenges for Bali, from the direct hazard of fire and its resulting air pollution to the displacement of communities and now the troubles of ongoing waste management.
Whilst firefighters and environmental services work tirelessly to extinguish the flames, such a complex set of simultaneous problems leaves many ordinary citizens and visitors wondering how they can help and what are some long-term solutions.
Outlining the Current Situation
Landfills have long perpetuated the philosophy, ‘Out of Sight, Out of Mind’, and that is certainly the case here in Bali where a severe lack of effective waste management has resulted in the giant mountain known as TPA Suwung. Climbing stories high, with an estimated 250 tonnes of waste dumped every single day (numbers may vary), the landfill located on the outskirts of Sanur has been South Bali’s silent blight for many a decade.
With cruel Karmic fate, fires have sparked immediate action from officials, with the flaming landfill quite literally burning for attention. The prolonged and extreme dry season, said to be the result of El Niño, coupled with the perfectly combustible cocktail of unseparated waste has seen the smouldering dump spew toxic smog across the south coast.
Other than the resulting air pollution, the fires are affecting the 200 families that have lived around the landfill, who make an income from collecting and sorting materials from the rubbish. Currently, they are facing dire living conditions and require basic living necessities.
Further to that, the landfill has been closed whilst the fires blaze on. With trash collections paused, local organisation Sungai Watch noticed an immediate increase in river pollution across their 100+ river trash barriers — a result of local populations around the island dumping their waste.
In a panic to provide a temporary solution, daily rubbish was sent to the landfills of ‘Mandung Tabanan’ and ‘TPA Temisi Gianyar’, which then also suffered from fires. Now the 200 daily rubbish trucks have been diverted to a new landfill in Desa Kelating, Tabanan, turning what was once green lands into the newest dumping ground. Videos from Sungai Watch’s Co-Founder, Gary Bencheghib, explain that the growing landfill borders a river.
Bali has declared a State of Emergency to mobilise resources and deal with the fire and its resulting indirect effects. As unfortunate as the situation may be, these fires have certainly drawn scrutiny into the current state of Bali’s public waste management infrastructure, which, we hope, will work as a harsh reminder and perhaps ‘spark’ necessary change for the future.
Meanwhile, the problems persist and the landfill community, as well as Bali’s environment (land, air, sea), continue to suffer as a consequence of this difficult situation. But there are ways we can help, both those in need and the situation at large, which we have outlined below.
What can you do to help?
(1) Donate or Volunteer to help the TPA Suwung Community who require food and basic necessities. This is being effectively managed by two great organisations: Bali Life Foundation and also the Ragam Foundation. Together they have provided over 10,000 meals to those in need, plus finances, medicine and masks.
(2) Support Sungai Watch who are not only having to deal with increased cleanups across Bali’s rivers, their on-the-ground work has become a direct window into the current situation at landfills and opened awareness to the state of affairs. For those who want to stay in the loop and constantly updated, make sure to follow them on Instagram, or follow the link to see how to donate as well as volunteering schedules.
(3) Start Managing Waste at Home and take pressure off the landfills! ecoBali Recycling has long been providing effective waste management solutions for homes, offices, events and businesses across Bali.
Their service includes waste separation at source and weekly pick-ups. This waste is brought three impressive sorting and material recovery facilities in Dalung, Tibubeneng and Kerobokan, where they achieve a high rate of material recovery of around 85-90% — i.e. reducing waste-to-landfill to 10-15% of total waste.
For homes, villas, offices, and businesses, this is a great short and long-term solution and will help decrease pressure on landfills for the future. Sign up to their service now at: eco-bali.com
(4) Separate your inorganic waste, this is in fact the easiest solution to domestic waste management and should be ‘Step One’ for all looking to improve their impact on waste.
Urban Composting presents a simple solution for this by providing a similar pick-up solution. Those who subscribe to their service will be provided with buckets for organic waste which are then collected every week. This organic waste is then professionally composted at their sites (and customers will receive the result of this compost over a few months). Available for homes, businesses and events.
Find out more here: urbanbiologistbali.com/urban_compost.html