We all know the image of our island is changing. Once the backpacker vibe of hostels, cheap diving and a few bamboo bars on the beach; Gili Trawangan has transformed steadily towards boutique shopping and westernised surf shops, pre game bars and all night parties. All of the new development has come with a price, nothing leaves our island, so all this waste is piling up and being ignored, everyone hoping that it will just go away.
The local staff, interns and volunteers of Gili Eco Trust are dedicated to helping the island, cleaning up the image of Gili Trawangan and making a BIG difference. However, saving the world is dirty work! Swapping boardies and flip flops for boots and gloves in sweltering heat they climb over the landfill, across old tin cans, building materials, bottles, plastic and everything you could possibly ever imagine in our disposable culture, looking for our target recyclable material – glass.
Even though some big names, especially Bintang, will actually accept their bottles back for refill, many escape this exchange system and end up in the dump. Worse and most common bottle found on the dump: RED BULL. Small 50ml bottles of the popular energy drink are consumed by locals and tourists throughout the day and partying into the night. However, because of their small sizes we haven’t found yet an attractive way to upcycle these brown bottles so thousands of them are ending up in our glass eco bricks; a project that is set to reduce the rubbish consumed on Gili, whilst helping businesses invest with a smaller footprint and lessening their destruction of our island.
Dump Excursions – Rolling around in Rubbish
Three times a week, every week, volunteers help the local staff of the Gili Eco Trust sift through all the island waste to find as many glass bottles, jars and broken shards as possible for removal from the dump and sent to be crushed into the glass crushing machines donated by DIAGEO.
The process is simple but might not be the glamorous: With baskets made from wicker, the glass is collected, using wheelbarrows to move 15kg of bottles at a time into the shade to then filter through again. A network of little pathways through the rubbish are made, moving coconuts and old rusty paint cans out of the way so the wheelbarrow can transport one basket at a time to a pile at the back of the dump, glass crushing facilities, a modest concrete building with one room for shade for equipment and a small tarped area to sit and shell the lids off in a little bit of shade!
All metal and lids, bottle caps, pourers and ring pulls around the bottle neck have to be removed to go through the crusher. The Gili Eco Trust employs two members of staff doing this full time, and after a quick lesson, a factory line of the volunteers is created of shelling the metal and moving it into the concrete hut for crushing. After a while it’s almost addictive and competitive, the volunteers are trying to shell lids faster than the professionals…. maybe after a few months… Jaini who has been working here for 2 years, can do it almost with his eyes closed!
From there donned with hard hats, protective goggles and face masks the boys can throw up to 6 bottles at a time through the glass crusher, leaving behind a sandy shingle aggregate which is bagged up and sent to the glass brick factory.
After we have removed the glass from the ever growing apocalyptic smelly landfill, the rest remains, never degrading, rotting or getting removed. Just becoming buried by more and more plastics and being trampled by the cows, who although are not trapped there, choose to live a life consuming harmful plastic waste of the disposable, throwaway culture that has infected Gili as much as the rest of Indonesia.
Gili Eco Trust is a not for profit organisation that relies solely on donations. If you feel that you can’t donate money whilst backpacking, diving or travelling then you can always donate your time!
As we are all living and staying on Gili, drinking, eating and creating the mess that is the problem in the first place, we welcome anyone and everyone to come to visit the dump for a few hours to see how even you can make a big difference! The feel good factor of reducing your island footprint and making a difference, even for an hour, makes those Bintangs taste OH so much sweeter!
Get in touch if you have an hour free or time to spare to help save our island from drowning in rubbish!