Bali’s biggest landfill site is experiencing its 21st consecutive day of fires, and dozens more fires are raging around the island.
From trash fires to house fires and wildfires on the slopes of Mount Abang, a huge conversation is underway between Bali lovers about how waste can be managed moving forward.
Technically speaking, Bali’s open landfill sites were due to permanently close before the G20 Summit was held on the island in November 2022.
Despite efforts across the island, the biggest landfill sites across each of the island’s nine regencies remain open, and until fires broke out three weeks ago were all accepting tonnes upon tonnes of waste every day.
There are two main types of waste disposal facilities in Bali. First is the TPA, which is an unsorted, open landfill site. The second are the TPSTs, referred to as TS3Rs, which are facilities where waste is processed and divided into organic, inorganic, recyclable, and non-recyclable.
As Suwung TPA, in South Denpasar continues to blow plumes of toxic smoke up and out across the island, officials have blocked any further waste from being dumped at the facility.
Other fires at Mandung TPA in Tabanan and Temesi TPA in Gianyar have also meant that waste has been directed to other TPAs and TP3Rs across the island. A new open landfill was even opened in Kelating Village in Tabanan Regency in the last few days.
The Kelating TPA has been receiving dozens of trucks filled with unprocessed waste every day, and the village’s once pristine paddy fields have been turned over into landfills.
Everyone is in agreement that something must change, and fast. The issue of waste management is impacting every community in Bali and is starting to impact tourists too.
One local leader in South Kuta, Ketut Gede Arta, has told reporters about his experience of the landfill fires and subsequent issues with waste disposal and how he thinks the issue could be resolved. But is it too little too late?
Arta has been keeping a close eye on the Samtaku Integrated Waste Disposal Site (TPST) on Jalan Goa Gong, in the popular vacation resort of Jimbaran.
The site has been taking on a huge amount of additional trash over the last few weeks since the fires broke out.
Arta said that the processing facility, which is just a 3-minute drive from 5-star hotels like The Beverly Hills Bali and a 14-minute drive from the entrance to the GWK Festival Park, is usually able to process 40-50 tons of waste every day.
It is one of the biggest facilities on the Bukit Peninsula, the last stop before Suwung TPA, just to the north.
He explained to reporters, “We have visited the Samtaku TPST after the Suwung landfill burned down. If the situation is normal, Samtaku can accommodate 40-50 tons of waste per day.”
“However, due to the current situation, it can accommodate up to 75 tonnes of waste.” But the facility won’t be able to keep up with the increased pressure for much longer. Something that is already being seen at TPSTs around the island.
Arta is calling on all villages and sub-districts in Bali to develop their own TPST-integrated processing facilities.
He said, “For example at the Tanjung Benoa TPST, even though the current situation is overloaded, the Tanjung Benoa TPST is ready. Because waste can be handled in the village itself.”
“Even though the location is in a densely populated residential area, it can still run because the regulations are good and it can be imitated by others.”
He continued, “We encourage in the future each village or sub-district to have a TPS3R. In Pecatu Village [Uluwatu resort] now there is no rubbish problem because there is TPS3R. The problem is only the residue.”
“We will carry out evaluations in the future. Hopefully, new TP3Rs can be built in several places.”
Arta says that the village-based recycling facilities must be strategically managed, not only to be out of sight of tourism areas but also managed so that the smell of the facilities does not disturb local communities and tourism resorts.
He concluded, “We just need to develop a new 3R TPS. We want to make this happen because we remember we are in a tourism [island].
“If this waste becomes a problem, then guests will automatically not come here again.”
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