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Ridding Bali of the Plastic Scourge

Environmental Group Urges Bali to Ban Plastic Bags

(6/7/2012) A non-profit group – Plastic-Free Bali wants the island’s administration to ban the use of plastic bags.

Reminding the provincial government of its own pledge to make Bali “plastic-free” by 2013, quoted in Bali Daily (The Jakarta Post), Tina Stockport, the group's spokesperson, said on Monday, June 4, 2012, “banning the bag is an obvious first step in addressing Bali’s garbage problems, but such a sweeping measure requires strong government commitment to enforce it, along with widespread public support.”

The group has outlined a variety of steps towards making Bali plastic-free, including tough rules and regulations with fines for illegal dumping together with rigorous public education programs on the danger plastic poses to the environment.

Pointing to the success of India and China in reducing plastic waste, Stockport is confident that Bali can follow suit. Supporting that view is the fact that Bali launched a “Bali Clean and Green” program in 2010 announcing a 2013 goal for successful implementation.

Saying Bali’s self-proclaimed program is falling behind schedule, Stockport said: “In the three years to date, evidence resulting from these initiatives is lagging,”

She also condemned government plans to subsidize the use of bio-degradable bags, saying: “Promoting biodegradable bags will actually increase the overall amount of plastic waste, as shoppers believe these bags are an environmentally friendly option and will not bother trying to reduce their use. Surely stopping plastic at its source, rather than creating waste in the first place, would be the most effective method of tackling the waste problem.”

Stockport contends that biodegradable bags are a ruse, and never truly degrade, especially in humid tropical climates such as Indonesia. “This is merely a cosmetic solution that has dangerous long-term consequences and costs to both human and environmental health.”

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“Biodegradable bags contain high levels of heavy metals to promote degradation. These toxins are introduced into the food chain, seeping into farming land and poisoning the many animals and marine life that ingest them,” said Stockport.

Pointing out that plastic bags, used only once and for a very short time, become a permanent part of the environment for 1,000 years to come.

Government officials estimate that Bali produces some 1,000 cubic meters of plastic waste every day, a figure representing 10% of the island’s daily garbage.

The head of the Bali Environmental office, Anak Agung Alit Sastrawan, appreciated the efforts of “Bali Plastic-Free” but expressed doubts that the overwhelmingly popular use plastic bags could be halted. At best, said Sastrawan, Bali could try to provide biodegradable bags.