Clean up Karimun

Living in Karimunjawa has brought me a lot. It made me see, hear, smell, feel, taste and learn different and new aspects of life. One of the things that I have been more focused on lately is the environment. I guess that living in the middle of the nature, in such a pure and beautiful surrounding opened my eyes. And more specifically the plastic/waste problem has caught my eye.

When I was living in Amsterdam I was already being a bit conscious. Separating my waste and trying to reduce the amount of plastic bags I used. However, I became a more fanatic since I live here, I started reading in to he subject and becoming more and more aware of my way of consuming. I think that’s a positive thing though, I mean if I can change my attitude towards this problem, many others can too. 

Is it really such a big deal?

I know there are still people who believe that the environmental problem is not that mayor or even completely deny there is a problem. Crazy! In my opinion. If I look at my current living environment, the problem of waste and specifically plastic waste is so overwhelming that it’s scary.

In Karimunjawa, and so many other small villages in Indonesia, is no proper waste system. This means there is no overarching waste system that collects, recycles and/or processes the waste. In Karimun some people do collect and bring away their trash but for sure not everybody contributes in this system. This makes the amount of waste being used extremely visible.

The second problem is the level of awareness on recycling and environmental damage. Some people in Indonesia are a bit behind on knowledge if it comes to waste and the way waste dissolves or actually often doesn’t dissolve. Many people don’t know the answer to questions like: ‘Is there a difference between throwing away an apple and a plastic bottle?’ or ‘Is it harmful to my health if I burn my plastic waste right beside my kitchen window?’. Kind of crucial questions right? The fact that people often don’t know the answers, gives you an indication of the general knowledge.

Besides the lack of knowledge on this subject, the amount of plastic that is being used is crazy. People use plastic for everything and the amount of single used plastic is super high. Straws, plastic cups, plastic bottles and plastic bags. I read somewhere that the highest amount of plastic comes out of the bathroom. This is probably true if I look at myself but for the people here it’s definitely the plastic that is used for consuming food. However, small products such as single use shampoo packets are very popular in communities where cash flow pressures and habit prevent more sustainable consumptions. Plastic is cheap so for most of the people it’s super logic to use plastic especially because they don’t realise the negative effect of it.

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Is it really such a big deal?

I know there are still people who believe that the environmental problem is not that mayor or even completely deny there is a problem. Crazy! In my opinion. If I look at my current living environment, the problem of waste and specifically plastic waste is so overwhelming that it’s scary.

In Karimunjawa, and so many other small villages in Indonesia, is no proper waste system. This means there is no overarching waste system that collects, recycles and/or processes the waste. In Karimun some people do collect and bring away their trash but for sure not everybody contributes in this system. This makes the amount of waste being used extremely visible.

The second problem is the level of awareness on recycling and environmental damage. Some people in Indonesia are a bit behind on knowledge if it comes to waste and the way waste dissolves or actually often doesn’t dissolve. Many people don’t know the answer to questions like: ‘Is there a difference between throwing away an apple and a plastic bottle?’ or ‘Is it harmful to my health if I burn my plastic waste right beside my kitchen window?’. Kind of crucial questions right? The fact that people often don’t know the answers, gives you an indication of the general knowledge.

Besides the lack of knowledge on this subject, the amount of plastic that is being used is crazy. People use plastic for everything and the amount of single used plastic is super high. Straws, plastic cups, plastic bottles and plastic bags. I read somewhere that the highest amount of plastic comes out of the bathroom. This is probably true if I look at myself but for the people here it’s definitely the plastic that is used for consuming food. However, small products such as single use shampoo packets are very popular in communities where cash flow pressures and habit prevent more sustainable consumptions. Plastic is cheap so for most of the people it’s super logic to use plastic especially because they don’t realise the negative effect of it.

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So now what?

Indonesia is currently the second-largest marine polluter; the amount of plastic that is being used is disturbing especially because, according to date from the Indonesian ministry of Environment and Forestry, 80% of this waste ends up in the country’s rivers and oceans.

This is extra sad if you realize that Indonesia has the world’s highest levels of marine biodiversity. In the middle of Indonesia is something that’s called the ‘Coral Triangle’. These incredibly rich coral reef ecosystems support crucial fisheries, provide food security for millions and attracts a big amount of tourists.

As I said, the level of awareness on recycling and the damage by plastic on the environment are very low. However, lately the Indonesian government has woken up. In an article of the Guardian I read that the famous video of the diver, around the coast of Bali, surrounded by trash has been a big wake-up call! Therefore luckily there is some action been taken, as the government committed to a plastic waste cut of 70% by 2025. Also, the government announced to become part of the UN’s new ‘Clean Seas’ campaign. By committing to this, Indonesia will tackle consumer plastics with specific actions such as: cutting down on single use plastic (shopping bags and coffee cups) and pressuring firms to cut down on plastic packaging. Besides Indonesia nine other countries signed up to reduce the use of plastic in their country.

The Indonesian government is really trying to put action behind their words as they just announced collaboration with the two largest Islamic organisations in Indonesia in order to reduce plastic. 100 million followers will be reached by prayers to share the importance of reducing the use of plastic, explaining the damage plastic waste can do (like nature disaster as floods) and encourage people to go back to using traditional bags, from their grandmothers time.

Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan, Indonesia’s coordinating minister for maritime affairs, proposed developing new industries that use biodegradable materials such as cassava and seaweed. In order to create plastic alternative packages and products. Other ideas are a sustained public education campaign and a nationwide tax on plastic bags. One of my friends told me that a while ago supermarkets in Semarang started asking a small price for plastic bags, similar to the rule in Europe. Sadly, not even six months after this initiatives started, people were getting bags for free again. However, I will try to be positive and really hope these new ideas will work. 

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Not only the government is working hard finding solutions. More and more initiatives come from the ground as companies and also local communities feel like something needs to be done now!

People start cleaning tourist beaches in Bali and all over Indonesia, also local communities and non-profits are constantly organising large scale beach clean ups. Here in Karimunjawa we have the local foundation Yayasan Pitulikur Pulo Karimunjawa and another initiative I like to follow is called 4Ocean. An organisation not just based in Indonesia but all over the world!

I know plastic pollution is just one of the many problems for these ecosystems but it’s a very serious one. Recently I read something online that people expect that in 2050, there will be more plastic in the oceans than biomass. Plastic is already in the marine food chain. Recently Indonesian scientists launched the largest ever study in Semarang investigating the presence of tiny plastic particles in seafood and the effect on human health. This by tracking the diets of 2000 people. It would be horrible to realise that the plastic is already harming our health. Therefore, I feel like doing something instead of going over these horrible facts over and over again.

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How about you?

Although people in the Netherlands are often aware of the problems, not everybody is taking them too serious. Just out of laziness? My father told me that he gets demotivated by the local government institutions because he heard that the waste they separated carefully at home is dumped all together at the same dump. I am very disappointed to hear that because with the knowledge and especially resources people have in the Netherlands they should definitely know better. However, my goal is not to start pointing fingers. My goal is to inspire and to be positive by focusing on the people who are making an effort.

I know it’s difficult or even impossible to completely stop using plastic so don’t make that your goal. I think you can start by reducing ‘single use’ plastic and at some point cutting back on the more long lasting kind too. I guess you all know what to do. Recycle, separate you waste and cut back on using plastic in general. This can be super simple when you are at home. You forgot how? Here a list with ideas to remind you what to do in order to be kind to the nature.

  • Stop putting every piece of fruit/vegetable in a plastic bag at the supermarket. I realise that it’s difficult to bring your green beans home without a wrapping but the rest? And maybe it’s time somebody starts asking Albert Heijn why they still pre-wrap peppers and don’t offer paper fruit bags like the local greengrocer does.
  • Choose to use more eco-friendly cleaning products. 
  • Please stop using sandwich bags, plastic cutlery or other plastic goods to eat with.
  • It’s 2018.. maybe it’s time to stop buying bottle water? So treat yourself and buy a nice steel drinking bottle. The ocean will thank you later. .
  • You throw away glass jars? Stop doing that and safe your glass jars and use them to store your leftovers.
  • Swap your bottles soap bars, buy stainless steel razors or the once from Venus (for women) so you only have to change the top part. Be aware of the amount of toothbrushes you throw away and make sure to buy paper cotton buds and not the plastic ones. Oh and ladies. Stop using wipes to clean your face and use a more eco-friendly alternative instead.
  • Do you love coffee like I do? Do you daily buy your fresh brew outside the house/office? You know where I am going don’t you? Yes.. It’s time for you to buy a nice coffee cup to the Starbucks, Coffee company or whatever brand you prefer.
  • Love shopping?? A very simple but óóó so effective one. Bring your own shopping bag :-D.
  • Why you always need everything new? Choose products from recycled materials, share/hire big gear instead of always wanting to own it.. However, if you insist on owning it, make sure you buy something with high quality so it last long.
  • Do you love swimming in the ocean? Start saying no to disposable straws and cutlery! 

I assure you, this can be a lot of fun. Do you need inspiration, below you see a few of the eco-friendly inspiring accounts I follow on Instagram.

Finally, when you go traveling you will see all these amazing places and experience great cultures. Sadly you will also experience the damage of our consumptions. Therefore, next time when you go traveling, I encourage you to also share these sights of your journey. If only to show people who are ignorant towards this issue, that it really exists.

Also, if you wonder how you can create a more eco-friendly foot print? Check this little checklist below before you leave for your next journey.

  • Bring a water bottle.
  • Say no to plastic bags and always carry a shopping bag.
  • Use biodegradable sun screen or a UV Tee when you go snorkeling (so you won’t damage the coral).
  • Pack your own bath products instead of the small bathroom products at hotels (or even better, bring your own solid options like a soap bar).
  • Say no to straws, plastic bags, plastic cutlery and reduce the amount of paper towels/tissues.
  • Share your motor bike (where possible) or other transport with others.
  • Turn of your lights and AC when you leave your hostel room.
  • Last but not least: take care of your own trash!
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As a final note I just want to say that I think it’s time to be a bit bolder and look this problem in the eyes. Look at your own behaviour and hold a mirror for others from time to time. That’s at least what I strive to do more and more. Thanks for reading and I hope you enjoying the nature as much as I do!

Recycling turns things into other things. Which is like magic! Don’t hesitate to contact me, send an e-mail or private message through my Instagram.

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