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It’s garbage season in Bali, as an annual and worsening tide of trash swamps the beaches of the holiday island. From December to March, thousands of tonnes of plastic debris are washed onto the island’s main tourist strip, polluting the sand and making the prospect of a swim less than appealing. The shocking sight is having a real impact on tourism, and the official response is to try and sweep it away before visitors hit the beach each morning.


“This is so disturbing for the workers around here and of course for the tourists,” Wayan Suadiana, from the Housekeeping Workers Association of Legian Hotels, says. “The issue is to actually to find where the trash is coming from.” The association sends a team of about 100 hotel workers out onto the beach soon after dawn to sweep the sand. They join thousands of volunteers who are deployed along 20 kilometres of beach to try to clean up the debris that’s been washed onto the beaches overnight. Some of the plastic debris comes from Bali but plenty of it is from other Indonesian islands, like Java and Sumatra.


From December to March seasonal winds and heavy rainfall push the rubbish onto Bali’s south-westerly facing beaches at tourist hotspots like Kuta, Legian, Seminyak and Canggu. Indonesia is one of the world’s worst contributors of plastic pollution into the ocean, with an estimated 200,000 tonnes of plastic washing into the ocean — 16 per cent of the global total, according to a study published in the journal Nature Communications.