Sue Cooper recently spent some time on an unusual mission – a road show about plastic rubbish management for Balinese primary students in villages in Bangli regency. Bali suffers an overwhelming rubbish problem as a result of the tourism industry, lack of adequate services and the explosion of plastic in Indonesia over the last few decades. The issue had been on Sue’s mind for several years when as an Indonesian language teacher she had used the impact of plastic garbage in Bali as a learning context.
Sue began collaborating with Dewa Mahardika a friend in Bangli who was teaching English through the topic of the environment. The Australian students learned how to talk about environmental issues in Bali, and the Bangli students made English language videos about caring for their local environment. Soon, Dewa’s environmental programme, The Transformers, expanded to include the local community They organized several huge clean-up operations, involving Transformer volunteers, high school students and alumni, police, army and others, in local villages where trash had for years been dumped illegally in river ravines and forests. Bangli is an upstream area, so it’s important that locals understand how heavy rains and rivers carry this litter to the beaches and the sea. However, Bangli villages still suffer a lack of education about waste disposal and collection services are inadequate.
Wearing eye-catching orange Transformers shirts and matching Aussie caps, Sue, Dewa and other volunteers visited schools in Tembuku, Bangbang and Yangapi villages and Bangli town, talking about the importance of not littering, using re-usable bottles and containers for school, what happens to plastic in the rivers and sea, why plastic waste shouldn’t be burnt, how to sort household garbage into organic and non-organic, and how to sell plastic waste to the Trash Bank.
Being on the spot in Bangli helped Sue to understand environmental issues in Bali, which are not easy to solve by local initiatives alone. She was impressed by the Bangli Trash Bank which works together with local women’s groups and schools to collect and process plastic waste and suggest composting solutions. She felt particularly honored to meet the Vice-Bupati of Bangli, Mr Sedana Arte, and present him with a Transformers shirt! The Transformers are actively continuing their mission to clean, educate and lobby for adequate trash management in their area. They are currently supplying old rice sacks to all local primary schools and organizing weekly collections by the Bangli Trash Bank, which sells the plastic waste on to different recycling centres. This is having a big impact on community awareness and the environment.
Sue plans to volunteer in Bangli again and keep working on her Balinese language studies. Meanwhile, Dewa and other members of his community are eager to welcome western visitors “off the beaten track” to learn more about local culture and see the unspoiled beauty of Mt Agung rising above rice fields in the early morning, or the beautiful Goa Giri Campuhan Waterfalls (known as GGC). If you’d like an authentic experience of Bali in the Tembuku/Bangli area and a friendly volunteer tour guide (or even a spot of volunteering yourself), contact Sue at email@example.com.