3recyclinginternational.com | March/April | 2023
In 1990 my wife (who at that time was
not my wife but a new girlfriend) and I
went backpacking for four months in
South-east Asia. If I remember, plastic
pollution was not yet a major issue.
Then soft drinks were mostly sold in
glass bottles or aluminium/steel cans.
One of the countries we visited was
Thailand where we spent a day on the
then uninhabited island of Phi Phi Lee,
a nature reserve in the Andaman Sea.
Pure tropical beauty set in a turquoise
lagoon. You reached Phi Phi Lee in 90
minutes aboard a slow boat from the
bigger, neighbouring island of Phi Phi
It was paradise. We had the beach and
the lagoon to ourselves, the whole day.
There was no one else on the island,
just us. No facilities, no loud music, no
beach restaurants… and no plastics.
Ten years later, ‘our’ lagoon was cho-
sen for the movie The Beach starring
Leonardo di Caprio. They filmed at the
same spot where we relaxed in our
sarongs. I’ve never seen the movie,
only photos, but what I do know is that
it had a devastating impact on the
island. Soon after the film’s release,
the idyllic white beach and the
lagoon were flooded with tourists.
The traditional Thai longtail boats
had been replaced by fast speedboats.
The ugliness of mass tourism had come
to spoil our paradise island.
What’s more, with the tourists came
pollution. Plastics everywhere: on the
beach, in the water, in the forest. The
situation forced the local authorities to
close the island for tourists, clean up
the mess they’d left behind and give
nature a chance to recover.
This is no secret: today plastic pollu-
tion is blighting many coastal areas
around the world, but mainly in south-
east Asia. The country report in this
issue is about the nightmare affecting
Indonesia and how proper waste man-
agement and recycling can help reduce
The impact is huge, as I witnessed in a
fishing port near Surabaya, where a
50-cm thick mush of plastics, nappies
and other houshold waste has covered
the beach, a horrifying scene which
treatens the lives of many.
The other day we were looking at the
slides of our Asia trip and they brought
back great memories, not only of that
wonderful day in paradise…. but also
the time I still had hair.
Chief Editor, Recycling International
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03_editorial.indd 3 16-03-2023 08:55