How you could be responsible for Asia’s garbage wasteland problem
BRITISH DIVER Rich Horner has had almost every major news outlet and broadcast station come knocking on his door the past two weeks. All thanks to troubling footage he posted on Bali’s garbage wasteland.
According to Horner, it was shot at well-known diving site Manta Point, about 40km away from Bali’s main island.
“The ocean currents brought us in a lovely gift of a slick of jellyfish, plankton, leaves, branches, fronds, sticks, etc…. Oh, and some plastic. Some plastic bags, plastic bottles, plastic cups, plastic sheets, plastic buckets, plastic sachets, plastic straws, plastic baskets, plastic bags, more plastic bags, plastic, plastic, so much plastic!” he wrote.
For comparison, Horner also posted a clip of what Manta Point looked like normally.
“Surprise, surprise, there weren’t many Mantas there at the cleaning station today… They mostly decided not to bother.”
Horner’s initial video has since garnered over a million views. Dive enthusiasts and environmentalists are still picking their jaws off the floor as we speak. They are not happy.
Bali is often referred to as a paradise holiday island, boasting forested volcanic mountains, sprawling rice paddies, religious sites, resorts and retreats, pulsating nightlife, beaches and coral reefs. There’s nearly nothing the Indonesian island doesn’t offer.
As such, 600,000 foreign tourists visit Bali each month, come rain or shine, or a rumbling volcano. And the side effects have begun to show.
Officials in Bali declared a “garbage emergency” last year across a 6km stretch of coast that included Jimbaran, Kuta and Seminyak. But the problem doesn’t lie with Bali alone.
According to Ocean Conservancy, Indonesia, China, the Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam are five countries that are dumping more plastic into the oceans than the rest of the world combined.
In Asia, trash often clogs waterways in cities, increasing the risk of floods, or gets swept up by wind and cast into the ocean. Due to poor waste processing infrastructure, in the five Asian countries listed above, only about 40 percent of garbage is properly collected.
“At this rate, we would expect nearly one ton of plastic for every three tons of fish in our oceans by 2025 – an unthinkable number with drastic economic and environmental consequences,” Ocean Conservancy marine debris program director Nicholas Mallos said.
It’s really not that difficult to “accidentally” pollute the ocean. That straw you’re using to sip your cold soda, the plastic bags holding your week’s groceries, and all those plastic containers you’ve hoarded from takeaways, they all have to end up somewhere eventually.
“Plastic doesn’t really break down, much that it just breaks apart into smaller and smaller pieces… Becoming ‘Microplastics’. As with all the plastic in the ocean, it becomes coated in yummy algae that fish, turtles, etc, etc love to eat.
“So these small/tiny pieces of plastic will be eaten even more, entering the food chain, along with the toxins they contain and have absorbed. That food chain obviously leads up to us. Microplastics are actually being researched around our islands, and their impact on our manta rays,” Horner wrote.
In a nutshell, what contaminates ocean life can also contaminate you.
“Microplastics can contaminate fish which, if eaten by humans, could cause health problems, including cancer,” I Gede Hendrawan, an environmental oceanography researcher at Bali’s Udayana University, previously said.
Meanwhile, Jakarta is working on reducing marine plastic waste by 70 percent by 2025.
Under the UN Environment’s Clean Sea campaign, the city has pledged to recycle, curb the use of plastic bags, clean-up campaigns and raise public awareness.