Thu, Jan 06, 2011
The Jakarta Post/Asia News Network
Surf industry puts dollars back into beaches
Bali's beaches are a mess; river-born rubbish and wave action combine to dump tons of rubbish daily onto the sands of this tropical paradise, but there are many in the community attempting to hold back this tide of trash.
The surfing industry, which has grown from the surfers waxing boards on the world's beaches into a global youth phenomena, is taking a leading role to clean Bali's beaches, and in some cases restore habitat for wildlife.
Working with local NGOs like GUS, the big hitters of the surfing industry - the Quiksilver Foundation in conjunction with Coca Cola and Ripcurl - are spending billions of rupiah annually to clean many of Bali's southern beaches and spread the word on environmental protection through education.
"With Coca Cola we invest 50 - 50 percent into this. Annually we spend about Rp 2 billion each - so 4 billion on our environmental program," says Quiksilver's Asia Pacific marketing leader, Simon MacGregor.
Under the program, the two giants of youth culture undertake daily beach cleaning at Kuta and several other southern beaches, employing 75 people and using heavy equipment to clean the sands of beaches that attract hundreds of people daily.
An unexpected outcome of the beach cleaning is a rise in sea turtle breeding. Quiksilver and Coca Cola jointly helped build the Kuta Beach Turtle Hatchery through financial support and logistical support.
"We have seen, since we began the cleanups, a rise in the numbers of sea turtles breeding on these beaches, which is great. But it needs to be remembered that the rubbish we see is just the tip of the sword. We need to look at infrastructure. The biggest landfill here is at Serangan Island. The area now faces major toxic levels in the soil due to dumped plastics," says MacGregor.
Environmental organization BaliFokus suggests every tourist to Bali generates an average of 5 kilograms of rubbish daily - so a 14-day holiday enjoying swaying coconut palms and swimming in turquoise waters will produce almost a holiday maker's own body weight in rubbish -- 70 kilograms of the stuff. This, says Bali Fokus, is 10 times the amount of waste generated by Balinese.
But it not just locally created waste that laps the shores of Bali, according to Quiksilver's MacGregor.
"Where we are, with the ocean currents, we have a massive archipelago that stops the South China Sea entering the Indian Ocean - there are massive amounts of water from the northern areas such as Java, with its huge population, that carries rubbish here, so we need to be looking at this problem from a national perspective," says MacGregor.
He points to the developing trash islands currently forming in the Indian Ocean. "The biggest [ocean trash island] is in the Pacific Ocean - It's bigger than Texas, but there are now two large bodies of trash forming in the Indian Ocean. This is such a big issue - who will step up and take responsibility? This is occurring in international waters and is creating a shipping hazard as well as a major environmental disaster - so it is becoming an economic issue as well because ships get caught in the rubbish that sits just under the surface, so is invisible."
Education at the grass roots of communities is an approach to the problem also taken by Quiksilver, which travels to local schools to deliver the pollution message and inform people that the rubbish they dump into rivers is the rubbish found on the sea shore and out forming horrendous trash islands in the oceans.
Surf brand Ripcurl takes a more surfer-level approach to its beach clean ups and education program with two annual clean ups at Uluwatu and Padang Padang beaches, according to Ripcurl's event manager, Dhanny.
"All the Ripcurl crew work together to clean these beaches twice a year; we also teach our junior surfers about protecting our environment during surf competitions in places such as Sumbawa, Lombok and Sumatra. We clean these beaches before and after each competition," says Dhanny.
However neither Quiksilver nor Ripcurl have a dedicated environment staff member, depending for advice on the environment from local NGOs such as GUS Organic or the Fresh Air Waves foundation.
While GUS claims to be a small cog in a bigger wheel, the organization does the smart things that do reduce rubbish on beaches. At Keramas Beach in Gianyar there are several rubbish bins that locals empty daily.
Community beach warung manager Gusti says he deals with the trash every day and also collects rubbish washed down from the nearby river.
"Each afternoon I sort out the plastics, cans and organic waste. The trash pickers take the cans and plastic to earn some money, the organic goes back into the earth and I burn the rest. We don't have a trash collection here, so that is my only choice," says Gusti. Nearby, on private land that joins the river mouth a mountain of rubbish is developing; as this is private property, Gusti can only stand by, watch its growth and hope the land owner takes responsibility for its clean up.
This very simple, grassroots method of dealing with trash, in a low population zone is effective and what GUS Organic does very well.
"We started in 2001 through the surfing industry. We have rubbish bins on some beaches and help some communities clean up their beaches, because it is the local communities who make their livings from the sea and the beaches," says GUS manager, Ni Wayan Ani Yulinda.
GUS also works with the Temesi landfill and recycling plant in Gianyar.
"This was set up in 2004 by Ubud Rotary and is a really good model for all of Indonesia. What we see is that all landfills need long-term solutions to process the rubbish - for it not to just be dumped as is the case at Suwang landfill in Serangan Island. The technology in place at Temesi is simple and sustainable. Of the rubbish delivered to dumps, 70 percent is organic and recyclable," says Ni Wayan.
She adds it is also important to educate riverside communities to stop rubbish at its source.
"This is complicated and needs comprehensive solutions. It is not just GUS or NGOs that can do this - we need the government and community to make this happen and resolve these problems. The government particularly has a major role developing policies and the enforcement of those policies. We [GUS] are a small organization and are doing the best we can."