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Bali’s Spiritual Galungan Festival Highlights Island’s Struggling Waste Management Systems

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The Balinese festival of Galungan starts on 8th June 2022 that sees communities across the island come together to decorate homes, temples, and village streets to celebrate the triumph of dharma over adarma. In the last few days, communities across Bali have been preparing for the 10-day festival which has led to an overflow of waste in many areas. 

In Amlapura, in Karangasem Regency, East Bali, waste had piled up in community waste disposal areas and spread out over the sidewalk. Speaking with local reporters, Made Suparwata from Padang Kerta Village in Amlapura said that waste normally increased during preparations for Galungan. He said that this year the increase in waste was very noticeable.

There is an increase in organic waste as communities prepare celebration meals, and there is a sharp increase in in-organic waste as decorations and gifts are purchased and families take the opportunity to clean and cleanse their homes. 

Nyoman Tari from the Karangasem Regency Environmental Agency said that the ‘Usually the volume of waste is around 40-50 tons per day. Meanwhile, during Galungan, the waste can reach more than 100 tons…officers are overwhelmed with transporting the garbage.’

He reassured locals that ‘everything can be handled’, though processing may take longer than usual. He continued to say that the Environmental Agency has increased the number of waste management staff to transport household waste away from communities to Bali’s numerous landfill sites.

Further north, authorities in the coastal town of Kubu have told communities to sort their household waste before bringing it to village collection areas. They have urged households to sort their waste into organic and inorganic materials. They are encouraging residents to compost their organic waste so that only that which they cannot process at home will be sent to a landfill, freeing up space in transportation trucks.

Karangasem Regency has one main landfill site that sits close to Buana Giri Village. Representatives from the Environmental Agency have said that the site has reached 90% capacity and it won’t be long until the site is saturated with waste. As the waste from Karangasem Regency continues to flow, especially as volumes increase by double during festivals like Galungan and Nyepi, the local government is under increasing pressure to solve the problem.

Though Bali is famous for pristine white sandy beaches, stunning rice fields landscapes, and mesmerizing volcanos, the problem of plastic pollution is undeniable. While travel trends lean towards being environmentally sustainable, greater change is needed at a systemic level. Although much of Bali’s plastic pollution is generated from within Bali, there is a huge amount of waste that washes up on the shores of the island.

coastal waste and plastic on beach

Governor Koster announced in April 2022 that he will be closing all landfills in Bali before the G20 Summit in November. Bali is hosting the event for the first time and will welcome leaders from the biggest economies in the world. As the landfill sites are decommissioned Koster and his provincial government will establish 26 Reuse, Reduce, Recycle Waste Disposal Facilities (TPS3R) and 15 Integrated Waste Disposal Facilities (TPST) across the island.  

Bali Governor Wayan Koster has also announced that Bali will implement a ban on single-use plastics by the end of 2022. This may be too little too late for Bali’s already strained waste management system and put even more pressure on Governor Koster’s new waste management plan to be a success from the start.

In addition to Koster’s new waste management initiative, there are huge efforts underway to curb plastic use and to recycle and reuse waste materials in new ways. There are dozens of non-government organizations and public-private partnerships in place to level up Bali’s waste management systems from across the spectrum, from households to regencies to the island as a whole.

If Koster’s new system is a success and receives support from communities across Bali, this Galungan and Kuningan festival could be the last event of its kind that creates an overflow of waste into Bali’s streets. 

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Wayan Brapa

Friday 10th of June 2022

One solution might be to put the waste onto solar powered canoes and point them toward Australia. There is more room to store the garbage there especially in the north where it is sparsely populated.


Monday 13th of June 2022

Why would you want to do that?


Thursday 9th of June 2022