At our first arrival in Lake Toba, we expected beautiful green sceneries. Most of what you see in the distance is, in fact, green. However, upon coming closer you can see quite unnatural colours merging in the soil. On our travels through the area of Lake Toba, we noticed that the sides of the road were decorated with a wide variety of packages. It seems like the people do not care about recycling, or even just putting trash in a bin. Luckily, we have stumbled upon some people who understood the urgency of this environmental issue. The owners of the homestay we stayed at in Siborong-borong, were one of these people.

They were Tigor and Vera, two traditionally Batak people, who had just recently returned to their hometown to start a coffee photography business. They despise the littered roads in their town and are motivated to do something about it. Vera invited us to go tracking with her one morning, which we gladly accepted. That morning, she asked if we would mind to pick up some litter along the way. Of course, we did not mind! It was the opposite: we were happy to clean up this beautiful place. She provided each of us with gloves and a big bag and we were off to go on this pro-environmental adventure. We drove to Tigor’s hometown and started walking on a narrow dirt road that led to a different village.

The road was covered with plastic. You could literally dig in the ground and find pieces of plastic there. On some spots, the plastic seemed purposely shredded and spread out there. It looked very peculiar and so we asked Vera if she knew why this plastic was dispersed like this. She told us that some local farmers thought that it was a good fertilizer for the land. We did not expect this answer, to say the least. How do they think that this is good for the land? Apparently, since farmers had used their organic waste as a fertilizer, they ultimately thought that plastic waste would also serve as a fertilizer.

Vera was very disappointed to tell us about this belief and she said that she had made it one of her missions to educate people on the impacts of plastic on the environment. She and a relatively small group of people are aware about this big issue and organize clean ups. They also spread awareness and teach kids about how to deal with plastic waste. Hopefully, Lake Toba will be gradually greener, clean-up by clean-up. At least we are happy that we could be a part of this beautiful movement.

Written by: Roos Broer