Zero waste holidays and the plastic straw conundrum

ash grunwald bali biome breakupwithplastic earth bottles garuda indonesia insulated food jars lembongan island nusa lembongan plastic free plastic sucks reusable straws stainless steel stainless steel bottles straw sets tidak straw useless plastic waste free zero waste holiday

I’m sitting here with my family on Nusa Lembonang, a gorgeous island off the coast of Bali, we are at a budget beachfront accomodation called Nusa Indah Bungalow. Nusa Indah meaning literally “beautiful island”   The waves are crashing, boats are bobbing and lolling about in the beautiful turquoise water.  It is about as close to paradise as you can get.   We have stayed at this place on many family holidays and each time I stay I have found myself firstly stoked that they offer water refills but then really miffed about the plastic straws in each and every tourists drink.   There are around 30  tables for four here which are mostly occupied at at least 3 sittings per day and each person as I sit here orders at least two drinks and each time their drink is replaced with a clean white plastic straw so I would say over the course of a day they would use easily go through 600 plastic straws per day..  Yesterday the kids and I walked 10 steps to the waters edge for a jump in the ocean and picked up 6 straws right there about to be taken out to the reef by the tide.    The last time we stayed here we asked time and time again for “tidak straw”  or “no straw please” and each time our drink arrived with a shiny new plastic straw… It wasn’t until after around tenth time this happened I threatened to make a song and dance about it on trip advisor that they stopped.  I had a long long conversation with the manager and the staff about the damage that plastic straws are doing, about how they rely purely on tourism based mostly around the beautiful coral reef that is teaming with tropical fish with some of the most amazing diving and snorkelling in the world.   I left feeling triumphant that my message had not fallen on deaf ears and looked forward to seeing the change.     

My god, I am pretty sure the manager Skipper cringed when he saw me and my family traipsing down the board walk, red faced and sweaty with water bottles in hand for our current stay.   

It was quiet when we arrived and I straight away asked them how they are going with getting rid of the plastic straws.  They proudly showed me the bamboo straws that had been ordered in and we had a great conversation about how the use of single use plastics is slowly diminishing on this island that has no recycling facilities.   Great, I rushed back to tell Ash how I couldn’t believe they had listened and how stoked I was that the change was coming….  hmmmmm… maybe not.  We surfaced from our room an hour later to see a packed restaurant with a sea of tourists happily sipping from their plastic straws!!! Whaaaaat??? Why???  “Pak, please explain… what happened to the bamboo straws?”….  I got two different answers.. one was “The tourists don’t like them because many lips”  and second “We were using them but people kept stealing them”….  I am a loss at this point.  I suggested the possibility of a “straw tax”  or don’t offer them and if people actually ask for a straw that they should have to pay a tax or levy… hmmmm… this didn’t really fly.   I guess the only thing at this point is to somehow put it out there that the onus lies on us tourists to ask for no straw and to jump up and down if we receive  one.  To take our refillable water bottles on all holidays ask them to be refilled and offer to pay for the refill if they refuse.  Here at Nusa Indah they offer cold refills for 10,000 IDR or approx $1aud.    I flew here from Melbourne on Garuda.. I packed my carry on with my reusable Coffee Nut, I packed my own lunch in an Earth Bottles food jar and a little lunch box and insulated lunch box carrier I just purchased from .   I asked them to refill my water bottle.   Stoked, a waste free flight.   If you can purchase a carbon credit with that flight even better.  Even if you can’t do all of the above maybe start with packing your water bottle and your cup as there is sooooo much waste on flights. 

So, we are trying our hardest to make this holiday as waste free as possible.  Aria had eggs and toast this morning and her butter that accompanied it came in a one of those little plastic containers, she had ripped in to it and opened it up before I could stop her… I am wondering how to combat that and thinking later today I will go and buy an avocado from a local warung to spread on her toast, it’s more healthy anyway.   So here is my challenge,  the next holiday you go on could you try and make it a waste free adventure?  Get this kids involved, maybe have them write down ways and think of their own ideas on how to go waste free.  Of course there are situations that you can’t avoid but taking small steps and small changes all makes a difference.   I have to resist the urge to go and ask everyone sitting around me as type this “do you really need that plastic straw?”  but my husband wont let me.  How do we get the message out??  I would love to hear any ideas you have to help get this message out?  What is a plastic straw need for anyway, it’s not essential unless maybe you have a disability preventing you from being able to drink from a cup or bottle.  Hit up your local restaurants to ditch the straws. 

Before I left Melbourne I went to a really trendy new place on Chapel St and ordered a beautiful kombucha, not even thinking twice about it, I was shocked when my drink arrived with a plastic straw when I quizzed them about it the lovely and uber cool waiter said that they had stainless steel straws but the patrons kept stealing them…. So here we are again, it’s not just Bali tourists it’s also the cool Melbourne city dwellers pocketing themselves a reusable straw.. This begs the question once again, how do we combat this so that restaurant owners will ban the plastic straw??  Maybe the solution is a shoe deposit like we saw in Belgium many years ago on one of Ash’s tours… You literally had to give you shoe as a deposit when you ordered a boutique beer in a fancy glassware!!!  Ideas anybody… how do we combat this???   

I would really love to hear your productive ideas either via email, insta messages or comments.  Happy waste free holidaying everyone.   

Danni, Ash and the girls…. 


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