trash on beach in bali

A trashy beach in Bali

by RissiePwas on June 6, 2013

Update: January, 2017. This continues to be one of our most visited posts, and also one of our most controversial. Updates from readers in the comments below (along with continued research) indicate that Bali’s beach/trash situation has unfortunately not improved. While we typically seek out the good in any destination, we felt compelled to share this disturbing story 4 years ago–and still do. 

 

On our first day in Bali we headed for the famed Kuta Beach. The current Lonely Planet guide offers a list of “Top 25 Experiences” in Bali, with Kuta Beach right up there.  According to their experts, “Tourism on Bali began here and is there any question why? . . .Kuta Beach was and always will be Bali’s best beach.” At least that’s the Lonely Planet version.

An unhappy discovery

If our experience today is anything to go by, we can pitch our Lonely Planet guide in the trash. Or perhaps just pitch it on Kuta Beach. Because when we got there all we saw was trash, lots and lots of trash: on the sand, in the water and even clinging to the stray ankle. Plastic bags, bottles, cans, papers and heaven knows what else. It was downright filthy. This is the dirtiest beach we have ever seen, anywhere.

Our research told us that Kuta was one of the more built-up areas of Bali. Therefore, we were expecting crowds, but what we saw was not the detritus of a few too many holiday merry-makers. This was a public sanitation disaster.

It’s not surprising that the beach was practically devoid of people, though there were a few intrepid souls sizzling away on the sand. They were lobster-red and had the look of folks who had come to Bali to enjoy the beach, and were damn well going to, regardless of the rubbish.  One sad-looking girl sat at the water’s edge amidst sodden debris, a lonely mermaid washed ashore from the sea of litter.

kuta beach bali trash

Trash walking on Kuta Beach.

Trash on Kuta Beach: the explanation(?)

Surely this couldn’t be the normal state of affairs–there must be some explanation. Perhaps a garbage scow had recently overturned? Maybe the beach patrol was on strike. Bali has a reputation for being one of the most beautiful places on earth, so how could this be happening?

Unfortunately the explanation is not a good one. After further research we learned that this is an annual event at Kuta Beach. According to the Jakarta Post, “Beached garbage is an annual problem for Kuta. From early December to late March, strong wind and powerful currents send waves of garbage from the ocean onto the beach.” Locals even refer to it as the “trash season” and say the debris comes from the nearby island of Java.

But we’re not so sure we accept the “Let’s blame Java” approach. You see, the sides of the roads in this part of Bali are convenient open-air trash receptacles piled high with the same stuff we saw on the beach. In the rainy season (which we were well into) storms wash the trash into gutters, out to sea and then back onto the beach . . . where it waits to be washed out to sea again. It’s not quite the recycling system that Bali needs.

An alternative (and deceptive) viewpoint

We left the beach via the grounds of the nearby Patra Resort.  Almost immediately we were amidst manicured lawns, trickling fountains and a sparkling pool.  We glanced back at the beach where we saw lounge chairs nestled on gently raked sand, with nary a speck out of place.

are bali beaches dirty

This is a view of the exact same beach taken from the shore side. (These chairs are visible in the photo of the woman on the beach at the top of this post.) From here the trash is hidden from view.

Because of the slope of the shore, the garbage wasn’t visible from here.  But we wondered how many of the hotel’s guests actually venture down to the waterline.  We saw one family do so. Then, in a few seconds they came scurrying back like sand crabs escaping the tide. We bet they won’t go back for a second look.

Overall we loved the Balinese people; they were warm and welcoming, and much of the island was beautiful. But visitors should be aware of the trash situation on Kuta, along with other beaches on the southern part of the island. You really need to do your homework before visiting a place. With Bali, we thought we had.

If you’re interested in cleaner beaches, check out “Activist Abby,” a remarkable teenager from Illinois who is trying to rid the world of plastic bags: Activist Abby on Facebook

What places in your travels have not lived up to your expectations?

Pin it!Believe it or not, the tropical paradise of Bali has a "trash season." Do your research to avoid spending your holiday on a trashy beach in Bali.

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Micki July 8, 2013 at 1:48 pm

Oh yuck! that’s definitely not what I expected from a beach in Bali.

Tamara (@Turtlestravel) July 8, 2013 at 2:09 pm

We were a bit disappointed by Bali’s beaches as well, though we avoided Kuta having heard about its being dirty and oversaturated by tourism, etc. We found some nice beaches on Lombok and even better the Gili Islands. Much further east on the island of Flores (near Komodo NP) there are some beautiful beaches and amazing diving as well!

Jennifer Miller July 8, 2013 at 9:01 pm

yeah, we weren’t in love with Bali’s beaches and Kuta… meh. It’s depressing to see such a graphic result of the garbage problem in the ocean… I’m afraid we’re going to be seeing “trash season” on many more beaches around the world…

Terry at Overnight New York July 8, 2013 at 10:51 pm

Sounds like Lonely Planet needs to do an update — and you’ve got the empirical evidence in your photos!

Dan Winter July 9, 2013 at 1:29 am

Try Gili island in Lombok, clean quiet beaches with white glistening sand and crystal blue water, only about 3hours boat ride from Bali.

Steve July 9, 2013 at 2:54 am

That first picture is utterly depressing – it looks like some of the Thai beaches after a huge party, but they have volunteers to collect it daily for recycling. (Obviously it would be better if the tourists didn’t drop it all in the first place…)

Kate July 9, 2013 at 3:37 am

Bali is definitely not on my list of places to visit, at least not for the beach. This is a great example of “a picture says 1000 words.” The sand and water don’t look very nice, even aside from the trash.

laurel- Capturing la Vita July 9, 2013 at 7:12 am

That is really sad. What a disappointment. Not only in the beach, but in Lonely Planet as well.

theblether July 9, 2013 at 10:37 am

When I was there the beach was immaculate, however I still detested Kuta. It’s one of the worst places I have been for being harassed and irritated by in your face Touts and taxi drivers. You couldn’t walk 19 metres without being accosted again. This continued on the beach too, with all manner of vendors approaching you. I saw one gut trundle a rail of clothing along the beach. The desperation for money is palpable, and I would recommend anyone visiting Bali to avoid Kuta.

Val-This Way To Paradise July 10, 2013 at 1:17 am

Wow!! That’s so disgusting and sad….actually kind of heartbreaking…

Marc d'Entremont July 10, 2013 at 1:02 pm

I’m going to assume much of the trash was plastic – bags, water bottles, etc. Plastic trash has become the scourge of the world. I’m sure you saw it on otherwise beautiful river banks in other areas of southeast Asia. Tourists are just as much to blame because they don’t think before they buy whether there is anyway for nature to recycle their garbage – humans aren’t going to bother unless there’s money to be made. Many places in southern South America have outlawed plastic bags and bottles.

Michael July 22, 2013 at 6:14 pm

You are right about cutting back on plastic. In some countries they practically overloaded shoppers with plastic bags while in others they were banned or charged for.

Cat of Sunshine and Siestas July 10, 2013 at 2:14 pm

Spain has blue flag beaches (I think it’s an EU thing, as a matter of fact), and I won’t go swim at a beach unless it’s this way. Thankfully, Spaniards tend to clean up after themselves. I’ll let you know how the beaches in the north are after my trip!

Michael July 22, 2013 at 6:15 pm

Thanks for the beach report Cat.

Bethaney - Flashpacker Family July 11, 2013 at 7:45 pm

Gross!!!! I went to Kuta Beach for day just while I was waiting for a flight out of Bali and was really repulsed by it.

Gabi @The Nomadic Family July 12, 2013 at 10:03 pm

crazy and a shame. i’m going to like activist abby on facebook now. thank you!

Michael July 13, 2013 at 8:46 pm

I’m sure Abby will be thrilled to have you on board.

AB July 22, 2013 at 6:09 pm

Bali is drowning in plastic. Sea and Air. Lived there Fall of 2010 to Spring of 2012, and had to leave, as the air is a toxic dioxin stew (Dioxin = Agent Orange/burning plastics) and the land/sea just as bad. As much as I love the Balinese, enough to produce a film about them, the trash is beyond bad. And no matter where you go, Kuta to Lovina (N Bali) it is swimming in the stuff. Only getting worse, and will take about 600 years of decomposition before it improves, if the gov puts on the brakes right now, which is 100% unlikely. -AB

Michael July 22, 2013 at 6:13 pm

Hi AB,

We didn’t notice the air so much, perhaps because it was rainy season and it was mostly overcast anyway. You are right about the Balinese people, they were the most gracious that we met on our global journey.

DIna October 23, 2013 at 6:46 pm

My daughter is on her way to help educate the children on litering and trash. She will be there for 4 weeks. I am alarmed by how bad these
photos are. If I was there I immediatly would start picking that junk up! Its just in my nature. I most likely would not get much done but that is what my whole vacation would have been. Its a shame.

Michael October 23, 2013 at 7:06 pm

Hi Dina,

The trash is a real downer but the Balinese were the friendliest, most gracious people we met anywhere so your daughter should enjoy her stay there. Please have her send us photos of the beaches to see if it’s changed.

Ms Rose December 23, 2013 at 12:02 am

i wanted to go to Bali read;Kuta so bad probably 5Feb 2014 but after reading your review im scared to go. do you think it happens from December-February? the view is depressing and im pregnant. any Balinese can confirm this??

Michael December 23, 2013 at 12:56 am

Hi,

The wet season in Bali generally runs from October to March. That also creates the trash season since trash washes out to sea and then back on the beach.

Hope this info helps.

Barb December 30, 2013 at 8:33 am

We are here now for our first time – travelled a considerable distance – and are SHOCKED at the litter. If we had read your blog before we came we wouldn’t have come! We did do a considerable amount of research prior and read nothing… never thought to Google “Bali beach garbage”… sigh.

But yes, the people, food, culture and other sites are phenomenal but we did want some beach time as well. Too bad.

Michael December 30, 2013 at 11:42 am

Yes, it’s quite shocking isn’t it? Hope you were able to salvage your holiday.

Barb December 31, 2013 at 11:41 am

Today we did a fantastic bike ride from Mt. Batur back to Ubud led by a knowledgeable, friendly and energetic guide. We saw incredible scenery and rode through villages and rice fields – it was a great experience.

The trash, however, was an extension of what we saw on the beaches yesterday. There it was in the villages and rice fields, and along paths and roadways. I don’t think Java can be blamed for this; it is as though my-home-is-on-a-garbage-heap has been normalized.

I am having a hard time wrapping my head around how it became this way. My partner and I have travelled quite a bit over the years and often in developing countries but never have we seen such a trash problem. Can someone help me understand how it happens? Is it because of a lack of resources to haul it ‘away’? It is the density of the population that aids in exacerbating the issue? What can be done about it?

Surely there are Indonesians who are also sickened by what they see every day!

Barb January 6, 2014 at 11:29 pm

Just a follow up – we visited Lembongan Island for a day and it was great. Very laid back with garbage cans and signs asking for people to pick up their litter.

It was much cleaner than the area of Bali we saw!

Barb

Alejandro February 10, 2014 at 12:04 pm

Larissa, we went to Kyta Beach in Nov, 07 for honeymoon and we saw the same thing, maybe not as much as these pictures, but they gave us the same explanations (garbage coming from Jakarta). I dont think the pople in Bali throw the garbage to the ocean, they live for turism and I´m sure they want to keep clean all the time.
What we saw is that every 30 minutes they emit a sound through the speakers along the beach and everybody working on the beach (and that´s alot of people) gather the trash and leave the beach clean. Unfortunely in 30 mins is dirty again.
Look at this link from Citarum River in Jakarta http://www.viralnova.com/worlds-most-polluted-river/
One more amazinng thing (if this story is true) is that Jakarta is more tan 800 miles from Bali.
And one more question where the trash goes when it doesn´t go to Bali???!!!

Nadia February 14, 2014 at 7:46 pm

I would not recommend Bali as a vacation place. We drove all over this country and what we saw is a trash everywhere. Just few beaches are nice. This country is sinking down like a ship. Google garbage in Bali and you will find more pics. We are sad for people living here and we more admire our country….nice and clean.

Luke March 17, 2014 at 11:11 pm

I got married in Bali last year and I can tell you there are some amazing beaches if you leave the main tourist areas. We stayed down in Uluwatu and the beaches and caves that lead to beaches are amazing and so secluded, clean and quiet.

People also have to remember that Bali is close to 3rd world, living off less than our weekly pay over a full year. They don’t have a generous government willing to pay for services such as garbage collection and clean up.

There are so many beautiful place in Bali, the problem is tourists only go where tourists have been before, once you get to know Bali and are willing to explore and make your own plans rather than following brochures then there is so much beauty to be found.

Michael March 17, 2014 at 11:16 pm

Hi Luke,

Thanks for your note. Glad you enjoyed your wedding in Bali.

Cheers.

Tom March 18, 2014 at 7:53 pm

I go to Bali about twice a year for some surfing and leisure – I’ve just arrived home this morning. I think you’ve missed the point of visiting.

Beyond the Kuta – Seminak strip there are wonderful beaches – among the best in the world for surfing and scenery.

Uluwatu, Canguu and Medewi for example remain clean and relatively untouristed.

Ubud is still a hub of cultural interest and great food.

I think your comments are ill informed, about equivalent to basing your impressions of California on Venice Beach.

Michael March 18, 2014 at 8:02 pm

Hi Tom,

Thanks for checking in. I hear you about other parts of Bali but it just didn’t do much for us. As for Venice Beach, I was there recently and while the boardwalk is as tacky as ever, the beach is clean.

Take care.

Tom March 18, 2014 at 11:50 pm

Hi Michael, did you go to Uluwaru? I just can’t imagine anyone going there and not being astounded by the beauty. I always thought the most spectacular beach in the world was Sidiri in Corfu until I went to Uluwatu.

Michael March 19, 2014 at 8:28 am

Yes we went to the temples at Uluwatu.

Australian March 20, 2014 at 12:27 am

This is only Kuta the party area for idiots. Other areas of Bali are world class. If you judge bali based on kuta its a little unfair. The images are shocking but the rest of bali is not like this at all.

Marjloveslife April 2, 2014 at 9:41 am

Today we were on Nyang Nyang beach, climbed 500 steps to arrive at this beautiful secluded beach, but we couldn’t enjoy it because of all the dirt and garbage everywhere! The beach and also the water were filled with plastic, slippers, paper, …. anything you can imagine. You literally had 5 other people on the beach for miles. How can it still be this dirty? It’s such a pity.

Bali really disappointed me until now. The garbage is definitely not only Kuta’s problem.

Michael April 2, 2014 at 4:35 pm

Thanks for the update.

Sassy Arguer August 30, 2014 at 1:50 pm

Hi Larissa,

I’m sorry but I find your article dishonest.

1. You’re saying “The resorts are selling a mirage which the visitor doesn’t find out about until it’s too late” and implying that the pictures are a trick.
That might be your impression and I would understand regarding the situation, though you are wrong.
Your pictures are from South Kuta, near Tuban. We usually refer to Kuta Beach by the portion along Jalan Pantai, this is the most touristic one and where the most taken in pictures, and by the configuration of the beach the little trick you did when you took the picture in front of your hostel is impossible to do there.
Therefore your statement above is abusive and plainly wrong.

Also, without you are implying that it’s the state of the beach everyday all the year, the fact is, you have just been really unlucky. Heavy rains started mid-december, and before the rain saison, the beaches were ok.
Sure there is always a concerning issue about Bali’s pollution and waste disposal, and the precedent year similar issues happened (as in any country with rain season), but never it’s been that catastrophic that this year… sorry it happened during your holidays, but it’s just bad luck.

Assuming that all tourists will face the same disappointment than you and will be deceived by manipulative hostels, is again wrong.

2. (sorry I take portions from the original post on Huffington post, which led me here)
“How has it gotten so bad in Bali? The local government conveniently claims the trash washes up from neighboring Java. Even if it did come from there, why is it acceptable to keep garbage on the beach? Shouldn’t it be cleaned off?”

It was cleaned off, and the web is full of pictures of employees and volunteers who were cleaning the beach.
Trying to represent Bali has just greedy hostels selling manipulated pictures, tricking tourists and living in filthy conditions is really shameful.

3. “It’s not quite the recycling system that Bali needs.”
At some point, do you realise that you are visiting a developing country struggling to adapt third world country infrastructures to a fast-growing economy?
Seriously, you didn’t realise there was a reason why you were paying your cocktails 2$ and your massages 5$, and that could have a down side to that?

4. “Overall we loved the Balinese and much of the island was beautiful”
Lucky for them you like them as you encourage people to not go on their island, knowing that tourism is one of the main source of local development. What would it be if you didn’t like them ???

5. “You really need to do your homework before visiting a place.”
Like knowing the simple principle of moonsoon in Asia and tropical islands. Like typing “best time to visit Bali” in Google to automatically learning that rain season lasts October to March, December and January being the worst.

You should also do your homework after, like instead of recommending a charity in US, you could just easily found out what are the initiatives taken locally… you know like the volunteers that “you” didn’t see cleaning the beaches.

Congratulations, you came to Bali and you haven’t learned anything about the island… at all.
I guess tourists (sorry I cannot consider you as nomads) are willingly to learn the “real Bali” only if that fits their personal vision, the one where beaches are beautiful and culture is so charming in colourful, keeping an eye blind on the difficulty for this society to emerge and the courage of its people to deal daily between hard reality and dream to sell, for peanuts of dollars.

You had an occasion to actually learn something, you missed it. Anyway if you really wanna help Balinese people, here was the link to share http://www.avaaz.org/en/bye_bye_plastic_bags_on_bali/

Michael August 30, 2014 at 3:53 pm

Dear “Sassy Arguer”

Thanks for sharing your anonymous opinions of our story. We have to disagree with you about our photos. They are authentic and show how photos in resort brochures can be misleading. We were reporting on the experience we had in Bali during our stay and stand by that story. Any search of the internet will show similar stories to ours. If you’ll notice in the comments here by other readers we are not the only people to have experienced this problem which is not confined to Kuta Beach.

Regarding your point about researching a destination before our trip, we knew it was the rainy season but were not aware that it was also the “trash” season. One of the reasons we write stories like this is to help make others more aware of these types of situations when they plan their travels.

We have included the link you posted to a web site to ban plastic bags on Bali (http://www.avaaz.org/en/bye_bye_plastic_bags_on_bali/) in your comment and note that the web site it links to also mentions the same problem of the trash on the beaches in Bali. Specifically it states, “The pictures are shocking: Bali’s most iconic beaches are littered in heaps of plastic rubbish. It’s hard to imagine tourists sunbathing and surfers catching waves amidst the debris, but the monsoon has brought a tidal wave of trash to the island’s shores — and this year, it’s worse than ever.”

It sounds like the experience we had and documented. We are glad to hear that others are aware of the mess and are taking measures to clean up Bali. It deserves better.

Chloe Dubois September 16, 2014 at 7:05 pm

PLEASE REPORT SHORELINE POLLUTION HERE!
http://www.oceanlegacy.ca

We have created teams to work with local community members to clean up the worst plastic hit areas around the world! thanks!

Jackson Lambert October 21, 2014 at 5:37 am

Bali beach has a clean up early in the morning everyday. I did my coursework on tourism in Bali. I also happen to live in Bali, and have for 8 years. In my personal experience in daily life the traffic is hideous, the litter problem is now not big. But Bali is on the way to a massive make over. My Dad being a government official has shed light on the new toll roads, underpasses, overpasses and infamous land reclamation. I just hope Bali does not become like Jakarta. It is on the way to it. Just hopefully the end result is different. Its a shame you didn’t see the real Beautiful Bali that I experience daily. Time to go back to another day in paradise.

Michael October 21, 2014 at 6:36 pm

I’m glad to hear that your experience was better than ours.

Diana November 25, 2014 at 1:21 pm

OMG I went to bali expecting amazing beaches but no!!! it was not like the pictures. Since then I’ve warned pple against it and I’ve been calling it the best marketed island ever! my post on bali:

http://beautiful-dissaster.blogspot.com/2011/08/best-marketed-islandever_28.html

We went to kuta too, so many rude vendors. I’m use to thai beaches where everyone’s polite and super respectful. I would never go back to bali again!

Gypsyblue December 8, 2014 at 6:43 am

Hello from Bali—I think traveling is about being aware; my senses come
alive when I am in a foreign setting. That means the good and the bad.
I love many of the same things that the Bali enthusiasts recognize, and
I am also appalled at the beaches. We are in Bali now and have moved
around to different beaches. They are all filled with debris and, this
evening, I watched an amazing sunset from inside my room because
I was so bothered by sewage stench. I think people who have written
on this site are frustrated and want to know how to change this situation so that we can enjoy all the amazing things this island and its people offer.

Jeff January 16, 2015 at 6:48 am

We spend 6 to 8 months every year in Bali. We love the people but we won’t swim in the water any more (since October14).
Bali stop pretending, the trash filling the beaches is from the locals themselves. The Ocean water currents don’t flow from Java to Bali but in the other direction. Don’t blame Java. Just look at the trash, mostly fresh plastic etc.
Beautiful ceremonies are regularly held on most beaches, but look at what is left. All there rubbish. The clogged canals are filled with plastic and other disgusting trash.
We have Eco Bali rubbish separation and collection but wonder why sometimes, after last weeks heavy rains the beautiful rice paddy adjoining us looks like a rubbish tip.
Bali is drowning in its man made filth.

brian January 28, 2015 at 1:01 am

Jeff
I have been trying to get info on direction of ocean currents in sea southside of java and bali. Best i could do was internet that states wet season current flows west to east then switches in dry season. Hence onshore winds along with current brings the garbage onshore in bali. Someone correct me if wrong. Now have you seen gargage disposal in java eg surabaya if this is typical of java then image a thong/sandal or a plastic bottle thrown into a drain along the southern java coast.This drain leads to the ocean and the thong and bottle joins many others along with plastic bags and floats along with wind and currents and eventually arrives on a beach chances are its bali.

Heidi July 31, 2015 at 8:45 am

Hello Michael and others,

We have been invited to an anniversary celebration next year in July in Kuta. We have 3 children and would be traveling from the USA. We have read both positive and negative reviews about Kuta, and trying to make decision to go or not. Our family loves the beach, ocean and rarely spends time at resort pools when traveling if we have ocean option. Can you please provide further objective information about Kuta to help us make our decision to travel thousands of miles to this destination. Thank you

Michael July 31, 2015 at 11:27 pm

Hi Heidi,

I’m not sure what we can add to what we’ve written here. Researching a destination and getting the opinions of several different people is a good idea though.

Good luck.

Polo Borbon December 18, 2015 at 10:31 am

I’m in Kuta today. The place looks as in your images. Sad, dirty and grey. Rubbish is every where. On the beach but also in town. Is a tremendous shock to see after thinking of a beautiful place before we came. Balinese are gentle and kind. However, garbage is everywhere. We stay at Nusa Dua where the beach is clean. Kuta is a hole of vice.

Michael December 18, 2015 at 11:57 am

That’s sad to hear but thanks for keeping us updated.

mee January 17, 2016 at 10:37 am

seriously, was at kuta this summer,. So no rubbish on the beach as all. it was clean and wonderful … think it’s time for people who clean up after all the tourists who litter and kidding around …Only a young boy who tried to steal my phone, but otherwise it was great..

Tod May 21, 2016 at 7:12 pm

Just returned from Mid-May Bali surfing adventure. the waves where great quality if not a bit overcrowded in the water an detrimental ocean water quality was evident plastic floatsam was a issue and water quality was enough to cause a inner ear infection for me as I forgot to take my Aqua ear solution and are paying for it now. ouch. by chance got a driver and went up to Balian surfing beach 2hrs North of Kuta and experienced great waves. cleaner beaches way friendlier non hassling locals. what Bali would of been like 30yrs ago. surfed Kuta-Legian which exacerbated ear problem but for me only 3hr flight so will be back for the waves. just be sure to take good drying ear drops along to counter bacteria in the water. search out your path there I suggest as us surfers go places first and then hordes of tourists follow generally to detriment of local ecosystem. think about your Eco-foot print next time you travel

Clara June 3, 2016 at 6:27 am

Hi there,

Is not only Kuta, we are in Amed, month of June, and the water is full of floating trash. The beach is beautiful, but we couldn’t even swim because it was a bit disgusting to swim around trash, and think, what is the exact composition of this trash

Joy June 6, 2016 at 4:29 pm

As hard as it might’ve been to write this post and put it out there for people, thank you! Do you know of any organizations or people there trying to solve the problem of trashed beaches?
My boyfriend and I went to Cancun and found the same thing. Brochures and media promising crystal clear blue waters and pristine beaches but when we arrived, the beaches were gross in color and has trash everywhere – though not as much as in these photos of yours!

Nicolas zavallone December 23, 2016 at 10:26 am

I am currently in Bali and in 2016 the situation is getting worse. I have spent a few days helping people to clean to trash and all garbage have indonesian orgin looking at the labels of what I was collecting.
The cause is coming from the government… waste management in Bali only exist in big cities, all rural areas and suburbs have no waste collection and the only option for them is to dump in the closest rivers. In the raining season the heavy amount of water push everything into the rivers and ocean and back into the beach for a portion of it.
This is purely unacceptable from a country which has been collecting tourism revenue for so many years. Corruption is also not helping….

Michael December 23, 2016 at 3:00 pm

Thanks for the latest update. It’s a shame about the waste disposal.

sam January 2, 2017 at 7:05 am

As of today, January 2nd 2017, Kuta beach is singularly the most horrific natural disaster I have seen. There were piles of garbage being raked up that were easily six feet high. It was impossible to go in the ocean without getting wrapped in plastic. Like one early commenter here, I too often carry a bag with me when I walk along beaches and pick up bottles and other debris left by lazy and uneducated tourists. However, anyone that says that about this beach clearly does not understand the scale of the problem. This is simply not an option here as the scale is something utterly horrifying. Also, this is not garbage dropped by tourists. It is created by the local population of Indonesians who clearly are in dire need of a massive national education program about plastic and what it is. I have seen plastic all over the island, thrown into bushes and hedgerows, and even in rubbish heaps created by many of their most beautiful temples, including The Elephant Cave in Ubud.

On the beach today we saw locals making small offerings of food and flowers to their gods, as they regularly do, but among the offerings, on the beach, which was a plastic wasteland, were chocolate bars wrapped in plastic. Somehow the local people do not seem to be able to put 2 and 2 together and realize that this offering would wash out to sea, never biodegrade and contribute to the problem.

Anyone who has not seen this for themselves will not understand. This is a cataclysm. I would estimate that to remove all the garbage from the beach would take over 40 dump trucks — and I don’t know how long before it would be as bad. Our driver told us they clean the beach every day, so the magnitude of the problem is astounding.

As for other posts about the garbage collection situation in Bali, which imply the government does not provide one, our driver told us that the government has tried to enforce a westernized rubbish removal system on the people, but they complain that it is too much work and too smelly, and prefer to just throw their trash in the river, as they have always done for generations. Of course, this behavior was mostly harmless in a world before plastics. But now the trash runs out of the rivers into the sea, and somehow these kind, gently people, cannot seem to see the result of their actions.

It is very sad. As a people they are so spiritual and very busy taking care of their spiritual world, but somehow have a blind spot for action and reaction in the real world.

I have read some posts of people downplaying this, but I cannot understand why anyone would want to sit on this beach or venture into the sea. I will explore some of the other beaches while I am here, but I do not expect it to be much different. My heart is broken to see this place that clearly was once a paradise, so horribly destroyed, and to see these gently people so badly burdened by a plastics industry that needs to be governed by strong international laws.

If I wasn’t sure of it before, I am utterly convinced of it now, all food packaging needs to be biodegradable and our use of plastics in food containers needs to be 100% stopped. People say this is impossible, but of course it is not. Before 1970 there was no plastic food packaging to speak of, and the world managed just fine.

Also, if you are going to Bali for natural beauty, then I recommend you stay away. I have never been so saddened by anything as I was by the sight of Kuta beach today.

Michael January 2, 2017 at 8:13 am

Hi Sam,

Thank you for sharing this, unfortunately, sad update on the trash problem in Bali. Quite often we are subject to abuse for writing this story but comments like yours tell us it is still relevant. You are correct, the Balinese are the most wonderful people we have met in our global travels, which makes it even sadder to see this level of pollution that they live among.

Please keep us posted of what else you find.

Jurga January 28, 2017 at 11:39 am

What a sad story. We visited Bali some 10 years ago and haven’t seen garbage on any beach, but I still remember – what I call – a ‘trash river’ in India, where you couldn’t see the water through the garbage. It’s such a big problem in most developing countries and it’s scary that it’s just getting worse.

Elle February 11, 2017 at 10:24 am

We arrived in Seminyak today, and staying at a resort near the beach, went for a brief walk & I was very disappointed with the trash situation. Feel like it ruins the holiday’s mood. We stayed in Sidemen for 4 days and I started to miss the villa, the view of Mount Agung so so much. I kinda regretting my decision to stay here, in Seminyak.

Michael February 12, 2017 at 11:01 am

Sorry to hear it’s still messy.

Kevin February 13, 2017 at 9:56 pm

Stayed 2/29/2017 -5/2/2017 and its worse than ever. Stayed here in the 90’s many, many times and it was never this bad. Might never go back to Kuta and Legian. Such a shame.

Kim from Australia April 4, 2017 at 7:55 pm

We’ve just made it to Seminyak after a nightmare journey where we were rerouted to Surubaya for 24 hours. It is worth noting that there was very little litter on the streets there – we even commented on it. The air was filthy however, and I was coughing for about 24 hours after our stay there. I don’t know how people live there. I’ve been in Hong Kong which is bad, but it was worse there. I’ve heard Jakarta is much worse.
Now in Bali, just out of the rainy season, we’re facing the same disappointment as many others. The beaches are a mess. The sea water is an alarming browny orange colour, particularly near where runoff occurs. There was no way we were going to swim in it. I found it interesting that various hotels had put up their yellow/ red flags for swimming, effectively directing their guests to swim in who knows what – guaranteed large parts sewage and garbage. The concept of duty of care seems to be lost with the resorts, which is really concerning.
It’s day 2 for us and I’m researching what else to do here since beaches are too disgusting.

Michael April 4, 2017 at 8:38 pm

Hi Kim,

Thanks for the recent update. It’s really a shame. One of the reasons we wrote this post is our annoyance about seeing so many travel stories that portray Bali as a mythical paradise on Earth. We loved the people there, but the appearance of many of the beaches is terrible.

Michael

Raymund April 18, 2017 at 10:59 am

Good evening Mr & Mrs. Milne, we are going to Bali this first week of May with my wife and 2 kids I just saw your site today and was worried about the dirty beach in Kuta. Are there any alternative beach near that area which are cleaner and preferably not too far? The kids might be disappointed if they can’t swim at the beach. It’s our first time to go to Bali. We are from the Philippines. Thank you very much.

Michael April 18, 2017 at 10:50 pm

You may be better off in May since that is not the rainy season. Some of the resorts appear to try to keep their beaches clear.

Juli June 3, 2017 at 6:59 am

I partly agree with you. Many tourism come to bali for a vacation. And saw a lot of rubbish being in bali, especially the beach. Because I think the garbage coming from people who visit Bali does not throw garbage in its place around the beach has been provided in the trash. But the trash also comes from various islands adjacent to Bali. This can pollute the beach water. I hope people who come to Bali or Bali people themselves want to care about beach cleanliness. Because the beach is very important for the people of Bali because often used as a place of ceremony

April June 15, 2016 at 3:31 pm

We have just returned from Bali yesterday (June 2016) and the beaches in Tanjung Benoa were disgusting. We ventured into the sea but could not stand it. They then were trying to tell is it was “unusual” and “unlucky” that high winds and seas had brought the trash in. By these pictures and posts it seems to be the norm!!!! Wish I had known when planning our trip. Loved it once we moved more north and inland. And the friendliness of the people were amazing.

Raymund April 19, 2017 at 9:55 am

Thank you very much! I will try to give some feedback when we’re there. We will also try their street food but with caution. Thanks again!

Raymund May 4, 2017 at 5:39 am

Good evening Mr & Mrs. Milne, we are going to Bali this first week of May with my wife and 2 kids I just saw your site today and was worried about the dirty beach in Kuta. Are there any alternative beach near that area which are cleaner and preferably not too far? The kids might be disappointed if they can’t swim at the beach. It’s our first time to go to Bali. We are from the Philippines. Thank you very much.

Raymund May 4, 2017 at 5:45 am

Update: We are in Bali now and are in the Legian area. The beach is clean as in really clean. The waves are good for surfing and my 2 daughters learned how to surf! Do come here for a holiday!

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