Rubbish tsunami swamps Bali beachfront

MICHAEL BACHELARD
Last updated 08:50 28/01/2014
Rubbish landscape
Getty Images

TRASH TSUNAMI: Two foreign tourists walk past the scattered trash brought in by strong waves at Kuta Beach

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A tsunami of plastic rubbish has swamped Bali's iconic beachfront for a week or more, defying daily efforts to clean it up.

Monsoonal rains sweep plastic rubbish down Bali's waterways to the sea every year and onshore winds dump it on the beach, but surfers, locals and business operators say this is the worst they've seen it.

"The sheer volume of plastic is unprecedented," says 20-year Bali resident, surf photographer Jason Childs.

"The scary thing is that it's getting worse every year."

The rubbish slick stretched the length of the island's busiest tourist strip, from Uluwatu in the south, through Kuta and Seminyak, to Canggu in the north.

Thousands of tonnes of waste generated by tourists and locals is dumped illegally in Bali's inland creeks because the waste collection and processing systems on the island are not up to the task - a symptom of the wider threat to Bali's environment from the tourism onslaught.

But Bali governor Made Mangku Pastika passed the annual event off as a "natural phenomenon".

"This problem is not anyone's fault, but is due to a natural phenomenon that routinely occurs," he said recently.

He pleaded for beachfront hotels and restaurants to help the daily clean-up effort - what Childs dismisses as a "band-aid approach".

Young surfer and Bali resident, Sonny Perrussel, 13, and his friends want a more permanent solution.

They were so disgusted at swimming and surfing through rubbish that often includes nappies, dead animals, syringes, and tonnes of plastic that they started a petition to ban plastic bags from Bali entirely.

They had focused on bags because that seemed to be the majority of the waste on the beach and in the water, he said.

"It's just disgusting and really sad," Sonny said.

"It's really bad [for surfing] because it smells and your skin gets oily."

He said, though, that there was one ray of hope: Governor Pastika had told the group of youngsters that if they gained one million signatures on their petition, that he would ban the manufacture, distribution and use of plastic bags on Bali.

So far the group has gained about 7000.

"It's a really big, crazy amount of signatures we have to get," Sonny says.

"It's a big challenge but if we do it, it would change the world."

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