In the village of Banjar Ngis, like in every village across South East Asia where we have been, the plastic bag has made its entrance. It provides watertight protection and bright color branding for potato chips, shampoo and instant coffee. The marketeers and product developers of Unilever, Mars, Procter& Gamble have made it possible to enjoy the “fruits” of modern life at a low price, affordable to almost everybody across the globe.
However, the exit for the plastic bag from Banjar Ngis is difficult. There is no municipal trash collection. It was never needed in the past, and there is no initiative from the government to start yet. So the village is literally flooded. Drenched. Suffocated. Drowning in packaging from the products consumed here, but also from every village higher up the mountain. During the rain season, the plastic is carried by the torrents downstream, into irrigation channels, rice fields, rivers and finally into the sea.
Nobody swims at the beach. There are plastic bags everywhere. The water is cloudy. It hurts deep into our hearts to see the ocean destroyed by the packaging that we discard.
We think that it is possible to solve this problem, but it is and will not be easy:
- Encourage/force the producers to use compostable packaging.
- Encourage/force the use of re-usable containers. Coca Cola is for sale in the village in glass bottles that are collected, so it is possible.
- Learn/teach more about the different plastics in use and how to collect for re-melting and re-use.
- Develop and distribute appropriate technologies for burning/recycling of plastics for use on a village-scale.
- Hold the producers accountable for the damage they afflict to the environment. A plastic bag is pollution, just as much as anything coming out of a chimney.
Let’s work on this together!