Every year, a team of Prakaro: Movement workers travels to Bali’s many tourist hotspots, replacing plastics with rice donated by local farmers. Photo by Samir Wahdan
Samir Wahdan | CNN
During his students’ coffee and vegetarian lunches, Ingeho Bathima tossed in half a dozen handfuls of rice to clear the table.
His students enjoyed the treat, which they dubbed “bouta!” But it was the feeling he got from it that really went viral.
The bespectacled engineer, whose 2014 documentary about the deadly bacteria found in irrigation canals was watched by 3.6 million people on YouTube, stood up from his table, poured into a small bucket and gurgled the water.
Bathima knew he had the perfect pitch. Since he used rice to show that plastic had no place in the world’s rivers and seas, people started reaching out with their own environmental messages.
Bathima’s solution seemed obvious.
After all, in a country where many people subsist on rice and fish and rice and fish, the two items on the list of several million disposable products sold every day don’t seem so incompatible.
So Bathima co-founded Prakaro: Movement, an education nonprofit in Bali that, among other things, uses rice to educate the locals about the benefits of recycling plastic in an effort to stop it from going into the ocean.
The idea has attracted over a dozen times the amount of money he had hoped for, enabling him to throw rice at people who want to speak out about the health risks of plastic pollution.
The ubiquitous plastic already has killed 300 birds and four fish per day on Bali, Bathima estimates.
It’s fed thousands of sea turtles that have drowned after plunging into the water looking for plastic found floating on the ocean floor.
“This plastic is damaging our lives, our water, and our food,” he said. “They need to come to a choice. We believe nature has a soul. And we have this responsibility to make nature what it needs to be to sustain the needs of humans.”
Part of the goal is to teach the people of Bali how to pick up and cut down garbage found on their streets and beaches. Their success has inspired Bathima to branch out to other countries and start Prakaro Initiatives in some of the poorest communities in the world.
“I think a lot of people see a video. This is not how it really is,” Bathima said. “People have to realize it. Sometimes we want to understand the idea of sustainability, and we don’t understand how. ‘Oh, maybe those people are suffering from trash, and maybe we don’t have a solution.’ It’s much simpler than that.”
Bathima feels for those suffering from the fact that plastic comes from the air and the water. What he is doing is just one small step toward inspiring people who face a daily struggle with the products that clutter up their spaces.
“There are so many things we can do to make life a little bit easier for people,” he said. “They don’t have to live like that anymore.”