We've arrived to the island of Gili Trawangan, the site of our first project. A small island situated off the coast of Lombok, Indonesia. Over the past decade Gili T has become one of Indonesia's hotspots for "Sea, Sun and Fun". What began as back packer's and divers paradise; with 200 meter snow white beaches surrounded entirely by a coral reef, has now acquired the label of Indonesia's party island.
Unfortunately this growth has taken its toll. Gone are the kilometers of coconut forest, chipped away over the decades to build, resorts, villas and villages to serve them. All but disapeared are the reefs and aquatic life- shadows of their former glory. A result of the population boom of dive shops and the boats which bring the tourists to which they cater. Even the beaches are a mere fraction of what they used to be, eroding swiftly after the loss of the reefs which put them there. A bit of a sad irony.
It is not just the environment which suffers, the unmitigated population boom has created an explosion of garbage. Primarily the plastics and untreated sewage have caused devastating effects on the local communities health and well being. Walking inward from the resort-lined beaches it is hard to go a dozen meters without noticing the garbage-spilling out of every nook and cranny.
Garbage which grows ever increasing until one reaches the center - the last of the coconut forest which used to cover the island. Home to a heard of free-range cows, sadly these cows must share their home with a massive tower of smouldering garbage. You can find the cows grazing the heap for food scraps( sometimes they get a plastic bag instead). Walking among the burning rubbish are waste pickers, spending their day breathing the toxic fumes. One of the many health and safety threats caused by the dump.
Just by looking amongst the trash it is clear that the island’s tourism has had a vast effect on it’s ability to deal with waste. Used Western products for Western people dumped in the middle of the island. Half empty bottles of Coca-Cola, lone flip flops, soiled fast food containers and more plastic bags than your average supermarket smouldering in a heap larger than a football field.
Talking to the local community and business owners you get a mixed response. Some are grateful for the money which tourism brings. While others are open with their animosity towards westerners and the problems which came with them. But they all share a common desire to deal with the garbage.
Pioneers driving the islands war on garbage are the local waste management company PT G3 Sama Sama and the Gili Eco Trust. Initially the Eco-trust was formed to preserve the reefs but after the garbage threatened to over take the island they switched their focus on waste. Through their efforts the amount of garbage which gets recycled has risen to 60 percent.
Yet even with their progress more efforts were needed, so PT Sama Sama was formed to expand the scope of the solution, .Waste banks and anerobic compostors have been implemented, and glass bottles are crushed to make sand for cement blocks. But still, the dump still grows with low quality un-recycleable plastics. Increasing exponentially with the growth on the island.
This is where we got invloved, together with our partner Nocart, a leading providor of modular renewable energy systems. We aim to bring a waste -to - energy gasification system not only to deal with their ever growing dump, but also generate electricity( and profit) in the process. We consider that to be a Win-Win-Win.
Together with our local and technology partners we share the vision of progress without destruction. Oneday maybe Gili can be a ZERO-WASTE community. A model for us and a model for the world.