Bali Temples Reclaim Tradition Ahead Of Island’s Single Use Plastics Ban

Bali Temples Reclaim Tradition Ahead Of Island’s Single Use Plastics Ban

Temples in Bali are the latest organizations to begin the transition to removing single-use plastics. On Tuesday 28th June. The Pura Luhur Uluwatu Temple in Pecatu Traditional Village in South Kuta handed out over 1,000 reusable woven pamedek baskets to worshippers. The woven bamboo baskets, known locally as pamedek, were given to Balinese Hindus attending the new moon blessings ceremony. The 1,000 pamedek baskets were donated by the artisans in Pecatu Traditional Village. The handwoven baskets were made using locally grown bamboo. Pamedek baskets have been used by Balinese worshippers for generations.

As plastic has become more readily available, cheaper, and more convenient, worshippers have found themselves using more plastic in their offerings which, unlike traditional offerings, do not biodegrade. This has led to temple management teams across Bali struggling with waste management and plastic waste piling up close to sacred sites. The community hopes that the gesture will help spark a conversation around making temples plastic-free areas. It is hoped that other temples will follow suit and that the ban on single-use plastics in Bali won’t be a major inconvenience for communities.

The Head of Pecatu Traditional Village, I Made Sumerta, told local reporters that it is hoped that the campaign will help encourage local people to remember traditional ways and to reduce their use of plastics across the board. He noted how people simply needed to be reminded that the pamedek baskets and other traditional Balinese biodegradable and reusable packaging materials are best for everyone. He said ‘If there are still people who accidentally bring plastic bags, we will still provide baskets. So there are hundreds of baskets on standby at the special post. So, during Pujawali [ceremony], we have prepared around 1,000 baskets”. He went on to explain that people could exchange their plastic bags for pamedek baskets if they forgot, and the worshippers could return the borrowed baskets to the post so that others could reuse them. 

The pamedek baskets are traditionally used by Balinese women to carry the puja, or offerings, from the family home to the temple. Balinese Hindu offerings are called canang sari and feature the petals of different flowers, arranged on a small folded basket of palm or coconut leaves. The arrangement of the petals is a symbol of different Balinese Hindu gods. The offerings are then blessed with holy water and offered at the temple with a prayer. The offering is accompanied by incense which is lit to help carry prayers to the gods. 

Traditionally the canang sari and pamedek are made using all organic materials, but in the last few decades plastic has become a normal part of daily offerings. People often add a small candy wrapped in plastic to the canang sari which then gets swept away at the end of each day, along with plastic bags left behind after offerings are given. Debris is often swept into the Bali waterways which run from the mountain ridges down to the coastal reefs. This, along with Bali’s struggling waste management system, has led to river pollution and plastic pollution along Bali’s iconic beaches.

Bali Governor Wayan Koster recently announced his action plan to eliminate single-use plastics in Bali by the end of 2022. The plan involves a complete restructuring of Bali’s waste management system and coordinated efforts to remove single-use plastics from across supply chains. As Bali continues preparations for the G20 Summit in November, authorities on the island will be working around the clock to ensure that all environmental policies are being adhered to as the eyes of the world descend on the island. The Bali tourism sector will play a huge role in ensuring the ban on single-use plastics is achieved. Many of the island’s largest hotels, restaurants and tourist activities have already made changes to ensure that their experience is as environmentally friendly as possible.

In addition to banning the use of plastic, the public is also advised to take the trash canang and flowers after the prayer to be brought back to their respective homes in a series of ceremonies.

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