We truly do not realize how much un-necessary waste is generated by what passes for civilization until we see it effects come crashing down on a pristine environment all in one go. We came to dread the weekly Banda ferry as much for its noise as for the lingering mess it always left behind. It was easy to tell when the ferry was due the next day as people would set up stalls selling very enjoyable foods and of coarse souvenirs all right by the gate to the big pier. It is one of the few real opportunities to augment the islands economy so who can blame them for taking advantage of the several thousand passengers who all go ashore to wonder Banda’s streets –spending some money while they do?
The offerings from Banda’s merchants are almost all environmentally friendly plates from banana leaves, and the like. It is the ferry itself that generates an effect similar to that of a rubbish lorry dumping a full load into the harbor. All of the meals served on board come in Styrofoam containers. Even the drinks are in Styrofoam cups, except the drinking water in plastic bottles. Passengers purchase their “meals”, eat them on deck, and then toss the empty containers over the side. We counted 37 empty water bottles around Vega one day where for almost 2 weeks we had not seen a single one. But that was not really the worst we saw. At least the ferries passengers’ lack of consciousness we can chalk up to lack of education. Not so that of some participants in the Sail Indonesia regatta.
One would assume by the time a person can afford to buy a modern yacht they would also have a modest understanding of cause and effect. We might even hope they would understand why they shouldn’t spread their rubbish around the local environment. Yet for almost a week, during the Sail Indonesia visit, we daily saw black plastic bin liners full of rubbish floating around in the harbor. I would bet money those same people would never dream of doing that in their own country. So why suddenly do it in one of the worlds last pristine marine environments? The sad part is the people of Banda had gone out of their way to make it easy to dispose of rubbish easily on shore. In fact if you have a bin bag full of rubbish you can ask almost anyone you meet and they will gladly show you where to deposit it properly.