There’s rubbish in my soup

We stayed in Kuta, in Lombok Indonesia, for three glorious weeks. It is a beautiful little surf town with breathtaking beaches all around.

It was pretty gutting to see how much rubbish was piled up everywhere though. Plastic bottles and wrappers lined the roads and beaches. It wasn’t peak tourist season, with locals outnumbering tourists somewhere around 10-1. We talked about it a bit and it really seemed as though the problem is lack of waste management infrastructure, most likely brought about by the poor economic situation, as opposed to just disrespectful visitors.

We were doing our best to be mindful, re-filling water bottles for about half the cost of buying news ones is a thing you can do most everywhere in Indonesia, making sure no ciggie butt ends up on the ground, looking very hard for bins… Seems like a drop in the ocean, so to speak, but every little bit counts? I was keen to find someone to talk to about the issue.

It turns out the Indonesian government doesn’t have any processes in place for waste collection or disposal in Kuta, I am told by locals this is because the town is small and somewhat remote. So Yuli, a lovely local woman who runs a beautiful guesthouse, decided something had to be done and started the South Lombok Community Association (SCLA).

With the help of sponsors, she has installed around 60 bins in public areas around the town. It costs one person AU$15/month, for a minimum of three months commitment, to sponsor a bin. The money pays for the bin, the hiring of a truck for collections and the salary of a couple of local boys to man the truck, which takes the waste to the nearest landfill.

Another thing the association does is scheduled beach clean-ups every second Saturday. The local kids are rallied together and they spend a day on one of the many beautiful beaches around Kuta, cleaning up rubbish and learning about the issues surrounding rubbish and the environment. The drawcard for them is having a well-deserved and rare day at the beach, as well as delicious home cooked dinner at the end of it all. Yuli tells me the kids really love the outings and are always asking her when the next beach day is. (Side note: the clean-ups have been on hold for a few weeks because Yuli just welcomed her second baby girl into the world, she is looking forward to re-starting after Ramadan at the end of June 2016.)

What an awesome example of personal initiative and determination to change something even when the state has left you hanging. It’s something we hear all the time but I’m sure find hard to believe: You can make a difference, you can change things.

Personally, I think that with a little bit of promotion, Yuli could have three times as many people participating in her beach clean-ups. Every single person I have met travelling has expressed a desire to help, to give something back to the place they are enjoying. A couple of strategic posters up in hostels would increase participation, maybe some inspiring Facebook posts targeted at people who have arrived in the area.

Do you have any ideas for Yuli and her heroic endeavour? I would love to hear from you with any simple, innovative ways you think Yuli might be able to scale SCLA. Write to me or post in comments below and I will pass on to Yuli. Also, if you want to get involved and sponsor a bin, you can do so here.

Parting thoughts – are there ways we could incorporate something like this into our home lives? My group of friends gets together to hang out at beaches and national parks every other weekend. It wouldn’t hurt to dedicate an hour or two of joint effort into cleaning up the area we are so grateful to have. It also wouldn’t be hard to scale this to be a scheduled monthly occurrence with more participants, some strategic beers and a rewarding BBQ.

One thing I can say for sure about change is there is power in numbers. Imagine how much of a difference we could make if we all donated a few hours of our time per month to keeping our world clean, instead of just feeling helpless about it?!


Image credits, left to right:,, Tun Ho,



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