I was in Indonesia recently with people of Wageningen University’s Environmental Policy Group to learn about the problems that the country is grappling with to deal with its plastic waste. After China, Indonesia is the second biggest source of marine plastic debris. This is a problem for Indonesia itself, but obviously also for other countries as like fish, marine waste respects no borders. The reasons vary from technical (moving waste around among thousands of islands is expensive) to behavioural (not too long ago people would wrap their food in banana leaves, which can be discarded), so the solution most likely comes from a combination of technical and behavioural interventions.
Bali appears to be ahead of the rest of the country. Bye Bye Plastic Bags is one of the better-known initiatives (no doubt a charming TED Talk has helped), but there are many more. And it seems the local government does not sit on its hands either: modern shops and shopping centers are prohibited from providing plastic bags. As great as this sounds, however, there are still many smaller shops that will be allowed to use, sell, and provide plastic bags, many of which may eventually end up in the sea. And Bali is a tourist hotspot with huge stakes in cleaning up its act, but Indonesia is a huge country where people in many other regions than Bali will feel they have bigger problems to deal with. So whoever can find a solution to reconcile technology, household behaviour, and economic growth, has his or her work cut out.
A message from Sonja
This is also one of those occasions where work and pleasure coincide. At the 2017 Festival Maritim me and the rest of Tobermore met Sonja O’Brien. Sonja runs the Boghill Centre, where I have spent many Christmas holidays learning new tunes and enjoying sessions in the vicinity of Kilfenora, County Clare, Ireland. In Bremen Sonja taught us an Old Time tune by the name of The Big Sciote:
Sonja gave us permission to play the tune at gigs, but only under one condition: we must ask the audience not to discard their plastics in the ocean. This is of course a promise we are happy to keep. We play the tune with two other Old Time tunes, Ora Lee and Sail Away Ladies. It’s one of our favourite sets! So feel free to play The Big Sciote if you like, but please remember: don’t throw your plastics in the ocean. Or the rivers. Or the street. Or wherever. Don’t buy it in the first place!
Anyway, happy holidays y’all.