From Bali to Lombok & Gili Trawangan – The Plastic Waste Reality: Part 3

This blog was written by Emily Ressia,  a recent participant on our Indonesia Living Oceans Trip. 

Gili Sulat and Sugian Village

The final leg of our trip was spent on a tiny island off the coast of  Sugian Village, a small community located on the north east coast of Lombok. The Island, Gili Sulat, sits next to another island and they are both uninhabited, although they have been earmarked as the focus of future ecotourism projects. We travelled there on a small fishing boat, where we camped on the beach for two nights with Aliman, our second Indonesian contact and a member of Sugian Village.

Our days on Gili Sulat were spent engaging in discussions with Aliman and the Sembalun Community Development Centre (CDC) members about waste management and ecotourism, snorkelling off the beach in the gorgeous and diverse coral reefs and around the mangroves, kayaking, planting mangrove seedlings and sleeping beneath the stars. Gili Sulat is an untouched gem: secluded, peaceful and naturally beautiful. The picturesque nature of the island was tainted by the presence of plastic waste, the volume of which was unexpcted. We engaged in a beach wide clean up, collecting and packing rubbish in bags ready to be transported to Lombok. Whilst out kayaking, we even found waste washed up on the mountains of dead coral that we had originally mistaken for sandbars (most likely the result of dynamite fishing and global warming). Using the kayaks, we spent time collecting as much rubbish as we could off these tiny islands of dead coral and then transporting it back to the beach to take back to the mainland were we would sort what we could for recycling. 

It was disheartening to find so much rubbish, but it was even more heart breaking to find such an enormous amount of dead coral, the likes of which you only see on the internet, so much so that you could walk on them. It looked like a graveyard. All I could think was that this is what our gorgeous Great Barrier Reef will become- chalky white, brittle skeletons, if Australia continues down its current destructive path.

After our nights on the island, we camped for a night in Sugian Village, and during this time, we were involved in discussions with the local villagers and the elders. Members from our group delivered a basic ecotourism model to the villagers, with Gili Sulat as the focus (the model is still being developed and finalised). Abby also presented her research to two groups, firstly, to the elders of the village, and secondly, to several female leaders from the village.

Something heart-warming and remarkable happened in Sugian Village, which I will never forget. A fellow group member and I were collecting rubbish along the beach, when several young village children that had been watching us, stood up and excitedly began to copy our actions. They would bring pieces of rubbish to us and put them in the collection box. This reminded me of a time during my internship placement with CERES, when a group of Australian children were enthusiastically collecting rubbish along the Merri Creek in Victoria, during one of CERES’ education classes about waste management. Link to social media. This gave me hope that the children of this world, as willing learners, will make a positive difference to the environment if they are guided and taught the correct waste management practices in the future.

Our final days were spent on Gili Trawangan (also dubbed the ‘party island’). We weren’t there to party though, we were there to meet Delphine, the coordinator of the Gili Eco Trust (GET). GET is an NGO responsible for waste collection and management on Gili Trawangan; however, they also focus on ecotourism, education and “biorock technology”.1It’s not possible to transport non-recyclable waste off Gili Trawangan, so GET, which is now solely responsible for waste collection, developed their own waste management practices. This included the establishment of the ‘Bank Sampah Gili Indah’, GET’s own recycling and waste management facility.They transport recyclable items to Lombok and the rest is landfilled.Delphine took us on a walking tour of the ‘Bank Sampah Gili Indah’ and of the Gili Trawangan landfill, which was similar to the Suwung dump, though not as large.

GET are working to expand their waste management facilities which is necessary to deal with the increasing volume of waste being produced on the ‘party island. However, they have already made amazing progress with their recycling and ‘upcycling’ efforts. Upcycling “is the process of turning waste, often the sort that is usually considered ‘unrecyclable’, into something that is useful or of value”. GET not only sell handmade upcycled products, they also sell hand-made bricks, composed of crushed, recycled glass (we were able to see this in action).Just as the other NGOs we met, GET have completed incredible work so far, and there is no doubt that this will continue in the future.

The time spent on Gili Trawangan was bitter sweet, as it was the end of our journey. We learnt so much about Indonesia and the challenges that they face, met wonderful and inspiring individuals who are working to change the plastic waste situation, and developed friendships with other amazing, like-minded people on the trip. Thank you to CERES Global, my fellow group members and all of Indonesian NGOs for making this incredible trip possible. Coming back to Australia, I can’t look at plastic the same way. I look forward to finding my own ways to challenge Australia’s plastic waste situation and doing my bit to help, just as they are doing in Indonesia.

1“What we do,” Gili Eco Trust, accessed 9 May, 2018,

2“Waste Management,” Gili Eco Trust, accessed 9 May, 2018,

3“Waste Management,” Gili Eco Trust, accessed 9 May, 2018,

4CMA Ecocycle, “The art of upcycling: turning junk into something useful,” 1 Million Women, 27 March, 2016,

5“Ecotourism,” Gili Eco Trust, accessed 9 May, 2018,

Taking the boat to Gili Sulat

Magical Gili Sulat

Abby giving her micro plastics lecture to a group of local women

The Tip Site on Gili Trawangan

Rubbish sorting for recycling at Gili Eco Trust

By | 2018-07-18T01:12:48+00:00 July 18th, 2018|CERES Global, Indonesia|0 Comments

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