Turning the Tide on Plastic Pollution in Bali

Expedition Briefing


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The Research

Plastic ocean debris is one of the most pressing environmental issues of our time. Currently, 10-27 billion pounds of plastic waste enters the ocean from coastal regions each year. Many developing countries play a disproportionate role in this pollution because they struggle with implementing robust waste management systems. Lack of available infrastructure, formalized collection systems, and financing mechanisms to support it all often prevents developing countries from properly managing their waste. Indonesia is particularly struck by this crisis, as they are ranked as the second largest contributor of plastic debris globally. Indonesia has a population of over 260 million people dispersed over 17,000 islands, so creating a comprehensive waste management plan is a herculean task.

One solution to this problem is to focus on community-level solutions. The Plastic Collective is pioneering one of these solutions in Bali, the ‘Shruder.’ The Shruder allows locals to shred plastic, enabling them to either sell the waste more efficiently to larger recyclers or melt it into new products they can sell. By distributing these portable machines, The Plastic Collective aims to reduce the amount of plastic debris entering the oceans. However, the effectiveness of the machines must be tested before it can be rolled out to more communities.

This project aims to collect sound scientific data on the effect the Shruder has on plastic pollution in small villages in Bali, Indonesia. In order to determine whether having a Shruder in a village reduces plastic debris, Earthwatch Scientists need data from a variety of areas. During this project participants will conduct surveys on common public areas, like residential and non-residential roadways, areas with shops, fishing preparation areas, and beaches. Participants will examine the study areas in lines, known as “transects”, taking note of the debris they encounter on data sheets. Items that pose a high ecological risk, such as fishing nets, 6-pack rings, etc., or recyclable items, like PET or HDEPE bottles, will be collected and removed from the environment.

The data collected from these transects will be compared to a “control area,” a village of similar size that does not have a Shruder to help determine the scale of improvement achieved by introducing the Shruder. The initial baseline data were collected by a group from Southern Cross University in September 2018. Teams on this expedition will perform follow-up debris surveys at Les and also collect information from a designated control village. If the Shurder proves to be an effective method for reducing plastic debris, then these data could help convince stakeholders to implement this solution more widely.

Research Aims

This project aims to determine the effect of the Shruder, and its accompanying community training program, in reducing waste plastics in public areas in the village of Les in northern Bali. Specifically, the project aims to:

  • Conduct surveys of specific ‘habitat’ types before the installation of the Shruder to obtain baseline information on the debris load in the environment;
  • Conduct regular monitoring of the same specific ‘habitat’ types in and around Les;
  • Conduct regular monitoring of the same ‘habitat’ types in a ‘control’ village (one without a Shruder);
  • Compare the results over time to determine the Shruder’s degree of effectiveness at reducing plastic in the environment; and
  • Understand the challenges that need to be met to expand the program more widely within Indonesia.

How You Will Help

Surveys require several people per transect, and there are multiple transects at each site (each ‘habitat’ type). Your keen eyes are needed to survey the area, make accurate notes about the debris, and to work with others to identify what you see. You’ll also help contribute to reducing negative wildlife encounters with marine debris by helping to remove dangerous/ high risk (to wildlife) items when we encounter them. The data you gather in one week would otherwise take several weeks for scientists to gather on their own!

Life in the Field

On this expedition, you will be immersed in Balinese village life. You will stay in the authentic Balinese village of Les, in the Sea Communities facilities. Sea Communities is a social enterprise helping local villagers restore the nearby reef to improve their livelihoods. Sea Communities accommodates volunteers from all over the globe on various programs, and is well suited to hosting international participants.


Weather and research needs can lead to changes in the daily schedule. We appreciate your cooperation and understanding.

Project activities will also vary seasonally. Below is an outline of what is likely to happen on each team, but the exact schedule will depend on the project’s current needs and will be set at the start of each expedition.

  • Day 1: Arrive in the late afternoon, travel to the village of Les. Dinner followed by campus and project orientation.
  • Day 2: Breakfast, training on survey methods. Lunch, fieldwork (transect surveys in Les or ‘control’ village). Dinner and potentially an evening presentation.
  • Days 3-6: Data collection, field work in Les or ‘control’ village. During this time, participants will continually review training on debris identification and survey methodologies. Earthwatch scientists will hold talks on other aspects of marine biology or ecology. One half-day will be reserved for recreational time to visit other parts of the island and see other social enterprises that Sea Communities is part of.
  • Day 7: Team wrap-up and review of achievements, completion of outstanding data entry and departure.
  • 7:30 a.m. Rise, get ready for field
  • 8:30 a.m. Breakfast
  • 9:00 a.m. Fieldwork
  • 12:30 p.m. Lunch at Les village
  • 1:30 p.m. Continue fieldwork
  • 4:00 or 5:00 p.m. Return to accommodations for showers and rest
  • 6:00 p.m. Snack, research talk, social time, data entry
  • 7:30 p.m. Lectures, films or downtime

Accommodations and Food

During the expedition, your team will stay in the village of Les in the accommodations hosted by Sea Communities. Les is on the northern coast of Bali approximately 3 hours from Bali’s main airport (Ngurah Rai International in Denpasar).


* Please note that not every expedition has couples’ or single's accommodations available. Please call or email Earthwatch to check for availability prior to reserving your space(s) on the team.

All bedding is provided and beds are stand-alone (not bunk). All rooms have screens and fans. Each room accommodates 3 or 4 people, and includes an ensuite bathroom. Participants will be segregated into single gender rooms (not mixed). Depending on available space at the accommodation, single or couple room requests can be accommodated.

* Earthwatch will honor each person’s assertion of gender identity, respectfully and without judgement. For both teen and adult teams, where logistics dictate single-sex accommodations or other facilities, participant placements will be made in accordance with the gender identity the participant specified on their Earthwatch Participant form and/or preferences indicated in discussions with Earthwatch.


Each dorm room (or single/couple room) has an ensuite bathroom with a western flush toilet and a hot shower. The ensuite bathroom is shared amongst the participants occupying a room.


You are welcome to bring personal electronic equipment. Electrical outlets in Indonesia are 230v. The outlets require the type C or F two-pin round plugs. Power in Indonesia can sometimes be unreliable, so come prepared for outages.


Wireless Internet access is available in rooms and common areas. There are no computers at Sea Communities for the public, but you may bring your own laptop or tablet for free-time use. Mobile coverage in Les is available, but strength of signal varies from time to time. Participants who wish to obtain a local SIM card may purchase one at the airport on arrival.

Please note that personal communication with outsiders is not always possible while participating in an expedition. Earthwatch encourages volunteers to minimize outgoing calls and immerse themselves in the experience; likewise, family and friends should restrict calls to urgent messages only.


The project home base is the seaside villa accommodating Sea Communities guests in the village of Les. They have dormitory style accommodation, a common eating area, and bathroom facilities. There are also two showers and and two toilets in communal areas of the Sea Communities compound. There may be other Sea Communities project volunteers at the same time as your Earthwatch expedition.There are limited shopping opportunities nearby. If there is something that you like to have every day, we recommend that you bring it with you.


The distance to the field sites varies from right outside the door to a 15-20 minute walk, or a short van ride (10-15 mins) to the ‘control’ sites in the nearby village.


Your meals are prepared by a brigade of village housewives who now have a restaurant specially dedicated to preparing food for volunteer guests. Meals are typical Indonesian fare—tempeh, rice, vegetables and poultry, pork or fish. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner will be sit-down, family style. Volunteers will not have to do meal preparation or shopping. Clean up will only include taking plates and utensils to a counter near the sink.

Drinking water is available in large gallon jugs at the common and dining areas. Participants are encouraged to bring a reusable water bottle to fill from these jugs. Both hot and cold water can be dispensed.

There is limited personal refrigerator space available for special circumstances, e.g. medicine storage or highly specialized dietary requirements.

The following are examples of foods you may find in the field. Variety depends on availability. We appreciate your flexibility.

  • Breakfast: Rice, eggs, toast, pancakes, fried rice/noodles, fresh fruit,
  • Lunch: Rice, noodles, fried fish, pork, or chicken and vegetables
  • Dinner: Chicken, pork or fish option, plus vegetables and fried rice/noodles and tempeh
  • Snacks: Pastries, fruit
  • Beverages: Fresh juice, water, coffee

Please alert Earthwatch to any special dietary requirements (e.g., diabetes, lactose intolerance, nut or other food allergies, vegetarian or vegan diets) as soon as possible, and note them in the space provided on your volunteer forms.

Vegetarians and vegans can easily be accommodated on this project. There is plenty of food where meat and dairy can just be avoided, and tempeh will usually be a good protein substitute, but processed vegetarian meat substitutes are not available. There is not much dairy included in the typical Balinese diet so lactose intolerance should not be a problem to accommodate. Wheat-based foods are not that common in Bali (rice is the primary grain consumed) and so a gluten free diet should also be easily accommodated. The information provided above is as accurate as possible, but please keep in mind that conditions may change.

Project Conditions

The climate is tropical, with warm to hot, and humid conditions. The rainy season in Indonesia is from December to March, with extreme humidity. This Earthwatch project field in the pre-and post-rainy season in Bali, so as to capture environmental data of how the rainy season may affect debris being washed toward the ocean, but also to avoid the most hot and uncomfortable times of year here. A wide variety of stunning birds can be viewed in and around Les village, and you will be woken in the morning to plentiful birdsong.


For weather and region-specific information, please visit Wunderground.com and search for your project location.

Essential Eligibility Requirements

All participants must be able to:

  • Take an active role in your own safety by recognizing and avoiding hazards if and when they arise (including, but not limited to, those described in Earthwatch materials and safety briefings). Comply with project staff instructions and recommended safety measures at all times.
  • Be able to effectively communicate to the staff if you are experiencing distress or need assistance.
  • Be comfortable being surrounded by a language and/or culture that is different from your own.
  • Be able to get along with a variety of people from different backgrounds and ages, often in close proximity, for the duration of your team.
  • Follow verbal and/or visual instructions independently or with the assistance of a companion.
  • Be comfortable being in a vehicle for up to 3 hours at a time.
  • Walk up to 2km (30 mins) one-way to reach survey sites, and 2km return, up to two round-trip journeys per day.
  • Enjoy being outdoors all day, in all types of weather, in the presence of insects and potentially wild animals.
  • Sit for 2-3 hours per day (i.e. presentations, or being in a vehicle).
  • Tolerate high heat and humidity levels.
  • Bend and kneel repeatedly during the day while conducting surveys.

Health and Safety


There will be first aid kits with the project staff. Les village is approximately one hour from the nearest hospital in Singaraja, and three hours from world-class medical care in Denpasar. Participants are advised to be vigilant of their surroundings and to not take any undue risks, as the ability to get to medical care quickly may be extremely restricted based on time of day, locations and unpredictable traffic of Bali.

Earthwatch has a 24-hour, 7-day-a-week emergency hotline number. Someone is always on call to respond to messages that come into our live answering service.


Please be sure your routine immunizations are up-to-date (for example: diphtheria, pertussis, tetanus, polio, measles, mumps, rubella and varicella) and you have the appropriate vaccinations for your travel destination. Medical decisions are the responsibility of each volunteer and his or her doctor. Visit the Center for Disease Control and Prevention or the World Health Organization for guidance on immunizations.

If traveling from countries or region where yellow fever is endemic, you must have a certificate of vaccination.

Project Risks and Precautions


All transport will be conducted via a qualified and experienced driver, with vehicles in good working order and high safety records. The vehicles and drivers are equipped with a first aid kit, fire extinguisher, Emergency Response Plan, and mobile phone.

Wildlife and domestic animals

Dogs and cats are commonplace, but may carry a risk of rabies. Participants are encouraged not to pet dogs and cats they may encounter. Asian macaques (a type of monkey) are present at some places around the island. These animals can be aggressive in seeking more food if it is offered, and participants are instructed not to feed these animals and watch their personal belongings when these monkeys are around.

Heat-related illness, dehydration

Participants should bring high SPF sunscreen and should drink plenty of water throughout the day. If participants start to feel unwell they should notify a project staff member immediately, get out of the sun as quickly as possible, and rest in a shaded area, whilst cooling themselves with water.

Personal Security

Although Bali is Hindu in a predominantly Islamic Indonesia, it is still a conservative culture, and participants are advised to dress conservatively and respect local customs. Participants can seek their team leader’s guidance for ensuring that there are no cultural misunderstandings that could lead to offence within the local community. Bali and Les in particular are considered quite safe, and the risk of violence or theft are considered generally very low, however participants should not leave valuables in the open. Lockers are available in the dorm rooms, and the reception can hold valuables if necessary.

Sprains and strains, slips and trips

Participants are advised that this project will require some bending and kneeling, and those with back or knees concerns may find that this exacerbates any pre-existing conditions. Participants will be advised on proper bending and kneeling techniques. Uneven surfaces and hazards such as mooring lines on the beach are commonplace. Participants should take care when walking over these as ocean swell may cause the mooring line to suddenly rise and pull taut.

Bites and stings

Mosquitos and sandflies may be present at some beach locations. Mosquitos may carry a variety of illnesses, and sandfly bites can be prone to infection if scratched excessively. Participants are advised to cover up or wear insect repellent spray at dusk and dawn when these are most prolific. Bees and wasps are less likely to be encountered on this project, but may still be present when on the islands. Anyone with allergies is advised they must bring their own antihistamines and Epi-pen.

Travel Planning


Hilton Garden Inn, Ngurah Rai Airport, Denpasar, Bali

* Additional information will be provided by Earthwatch to meet your team. Please do not book travel arrangements such as flights until you have received additional information from Earthwatch.


Earthwatch strongly recommends that travelers investigate their destination prior to departure. Familiarity with the destination’s entry/exit requirements, visas, local laws, and customs can go a long way to ensuring smooth travel. The U.S. Department of State's Traveler’s Checklist and Destination Guides are helpful resources. For LGBTI travelers, the U.S. Department of State's LGBTI Travelers page contains many useful tips and links.


Entry visa requirements differ by country of origin, layover, and destination, and do change unexpectedly. For this reason, please confirm your visa requirements at the time of booking and, again, 90 days prior to travel. Please apply early for your visa (we recommend starting 6 months prior to the start of your expedition). Refunds will not be made for volunteers cancelling due to not obtaining their visa in time to meet the team at the rendezvous. You can find up to date visa requirements at the following website: www.travisa.com.

If a visa is required, participants should apply for a TOURIST visa. Please note that obtaining a visa can take weeks or even months. We strongly recommend using a visa agency, which can both expedite and simplify the process.

Generally, passports must be valid for at least six months from the date of entry and a return ticket is required.


  • Jambeck, J. et al. (2015) Plastic waste inputs from land into the ocean. Science 347 Issue 6223, 768-771.

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