Being in Banda Aceh has been amazing. The scenery is breathtaking; vast rice fields adjacent sky high mountain lines will never get old in my opinion. I love seeing and sharing pictures of the mountains of this part of Sumatra.
But what you don’t always see in pictures is the amount of rubbish lining the streets, or the smoke from the smoldering rubbish as people burn their waste. It makes me sad that there isn’t a better rubbish removal system here, but then what did I expect? Huge dump trucks coming to each house once a week to haul it away? Not here. Here people throw trash on the ground, on the beach, on the road and wherever else they might drop. There is no thought about it. I witnessed a small child eating a piece of cake, during which he dropped his wrapper right on the beach without even looking to where it fell. His father was sitting next to him, and didn’t look twice at what his son just did. At least in the States if a child wants to litter, he would look around guiltily to see if he was caught. But it is so common here that no one really thinks it’s a bad thing.
Trash seems to pile up, and if you’re lucky you’ll see one of those piles burning. Otherwise the waste just sits there. Even if the plastic and rubbish does decompose, think about the chemicals seeping into the soil, water and produce. I’m no chemist, but I know for sure that I am not going to buy anybody’s produce from near those trash piles. I’m sure burning the trash is not the safe alternative either. Thinking of that smoke entering the atmosphere and my lungs brings me close to sick. Seeing the children playing so close to where there are piles and piles of trash and thinking about their health and safety gets me angry.
I have seen two small dumpsters on the side of street that are overflowing with trash. That’s it. Everywhere else it seems there is no real urgency to collect and dispose of trash. I don’t really know what to think about it. My first thought is that I have been spoiled and sheltered in my conception of trash removal and regulation because of where I live. Seeing this rubbish plaguing Banda Aceh has really opened my eyes and has prompted me to help as much as I can. I got strange looks when I picked up a random plastic cup and brought it to an empty trash can on the ferry ride from Banda Aceh to Sabang. The locals laughed and smiled, as if to say “what is this white guy doing?” But the real question is does one cup really make a difference? Would 20 cups make a difference? A hundred? How much would it take to really clean this place up?