Krui to Kiripan 40km
Indonesia has a huge population, squeezed onto a bunch of islands. NZ has only 4 million people spread out over a bunch of islands. If 5% of NZers elect to drop litter, really there is not much rubbish lying around, compared to 5% of 250 million. The trouble seems to be, however, that a good deal more than 5% of Indonesians drop their litter without even a thought. As a result, there is an awful lot of rubbish lying about.
Today I saw a four year old finish a soft drink in a plastic bag. There was no pause to think "where shall I put this litter?" Immediately the last sip of drink was taken, the plastic bag and straw were dropped. A scooter rider stopped to buy cigarettes. As he walked back to his scooter, he ripped open the packet and dropped the cellophane to the ground. Once again, no pause for thought about "where might I put this litter?"
There are rubbish bins, many of them even labeled "Recyclables" "Organic" and similar. There are almost certainly, not enough bins. Indomaret and Alfamart have a bin outside their front doors. Many are fill to overflowing. The problem is that Indonesians just are not educated to use the bins. There is no sense of responsibility, pride or shame. If you don't want it...drop it. This attitude is unfortunately having a huge negative impact on the environment.
For the second day in a row, I have walked along a beach, stepping through and around trash. These beaches have the potential to be stunning, but even walking along them is not pleasant, and the thought of swimming in the sea, which does look very inviting, amongst floating trash, is very off putting.
Cycling the length of this exciting country, I have seen that there is in fact a very active recycling programme. Glass, cardboard and plastic bottles and containers are being collected, sorted, bundled up and transported, and those collecting, sorting, bundling and transporting are being paid.
The problem seems to be plastic bags and the like. Many of the paper waste products are burnt, in small fires along the roadside. Organic waste seems to be collected for animal feed, burnt or buried. Plastic bags, however, seem to be set free to float, fly, blow, drift, sit or decompose (very very slowly) where ever the lay. Everything you buy comes in a plastic bag. Buy two or more items, and all the items, plus their plastic bags, will be placed in a larger plastic bag.
I've seen, in my travels, attempts to control the rubbish problem. Many streets have concrete bins where locals place their household rubbish. These bins are emptied and transported to central collection areas, by small cart, and trucks. The sheer volumes of waste created by so many people seems to be the main problem. Both the concrete bins, and central collection points are seemingly forever overflowing, smelly, and prone to rats and other animals scavenging.
As a result, even though the Indonesia population generally seem to be very conscious of keeping their personal space tidy, (they are constantly sweeping indoor and outdoor areas), rather than dump their sweepings in the concrete bins, they tend to be tipped, over the fence, into the ditch, thrown into the river, or out on to the beach. Out of sight.....out of mind.
It's a huge problem. Its very sad that so many have given up even trying to solve it, and that so many accept that it cannot be solved, isn't something they're prepared to worry about, or really care about. I feel for the reformers. They have a huge task ahead.
There are some who care. Our friend the Senator wants to clean up his area of Sumatra so as to attract tourists. Our friend the ex teacher wants to educate local kids to "keep it clean". Our friend from England is wanting to set up a Charity to clean up the beaches around Krui. These guys are the Crusaders, the Champions with a cause, and my best wishes go to them. They are taking on a huge challenge, cleaning, re educating, and then almost certainly, cleaning again, and again.
So today, we have seen some stunning coastal scenery.....as long as you look into the distance, and away from the shoreline. Sumatra, and indeed all of Indonesia, is potentially a stunningly beautiful place to visit. Will it reach that potential? Will it ever be a place that people will want to visit repeatedly, or even decide to live? I would like to think it might, but, I think not. The Indonesian people are amazing. The Indonesian scenery, history, and culture fascinating. The Indonesian trash, litter and rubbish problem? HUGE and off putting.