The water is speckled with synthetic hues: Coca-Cola red, day-glo green and every other color in the crayon box. There are monochromes as well: buoyant white blobs that, at a distance, look like 1,000 invading jellyfish.
It’s all plastic trash, of course.
Here floats the detritus of 21st-century consumption: soda bottles, Pampers and, since this is Indonesia, lots of instant noodle wrappers.
Those jellyfish? Plastic shopping bags. You can go five kilometers into the sea, the village fishermen say, and never stop seeing those lousy plastic bags.
“It’s infuriating,” says Alec, a 39-year-old mussel catcher. He’s hunched over his boat’s outboard motor with a wrench, face streaked with motor oil. The engine is all gunked up with plastic.
“This happens almost every day,” he says. “We can barely work. No matter where you go, the sea is covered in plastic.”
Like so many other coastal villages around the world, plastic junk has brought ruin to this place. Called Muara Angke, it’s a settlement in the shadow of Jakarta, a megacity generating mountains of trash each day.
These shores were once among the world’s most coveted. For more than a millennium, waves of outsiders — from Hindu conquerors to rapacious Dutch colonists — lusted after the paradisiacal beauty of Java. But today, any seafarer arriving on this beach will find a saltwater garbage dump.