Media coverage: Can Southeast Asia stop dumping plastic waste in our oceans?

An article featuring my views on marine waste in Southeast Asia:

“From what I have gathered through my own research, [the region’s plastic waste problem] started in the 1960s and 1970s when plastics began to replace banana leaves as the primary food containers,” said Kelly Heber Dunning, a PhD Student focused on natural resource management in the MIT Science Impact Collaborative.

Dunning, who is writing her dissertation on collaborative coral reef management in Indonesian and Malaysian villages, sees Bali as the “worst-case scenario” in the region. “The tide goes out in small coral reef villages on the north part of the island, and the trash line at low tide is like a rainbow on the black volcanic sand,” she said. “I have never seen anything like it.”

She recalled a cab journey in Java where her driver threw his food container out of the window without a second thought, explaining that this was the “Balinese way”. However, she is quick to add that placing the blame solely on locals is wrong.

“That is a misconception that I hear a lot in the field,” she says. “People blame the Balinese or the locals on the islands popular among divers. Local people cannot produce trash at the rate that the waves and waves of tourists from wealthy countries in the West are capable of. People from the West need to think about their own impacts and try to reduce [their waste] when on vacation.”

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