Popular tourist beaches are now so strewn with plastic that resorts are burying the debris beneath the sand, and British travel groups are forced to organise long distance litter picks, the Telegraph has learned.
Alarming images from the Bali in Indonesia show shorelines laden with refuse, which is washed up each day when the tides come in.
Communities are struggling to deal with the volume of waste, and even high-end hotels now pay staff to dig holes in the beaches where they tip in the mounds of plastic.
David Jones, the producer of the award-winning documentary A Plastic Ocean took the pictures while he was visiting Indonesia last week for the World Ocean Summit.
“Paradise island is no longer paradise sadly,” said Mr Jones.
“I was last in Bali 25 years ago and much has changed. Traffic has become the stuff of nightmares and so has the litter problem.
“Waste management is pretty much non-existent. The storm drains and roadsides are covered in litter all of which head towards the sea at the first sign of a storm. I have a video of people raking up plastic and then just burying it on the beach.
“The way that they are polluting the sea and coastlines in that place it will be remarkable if those micro ecosystems survive for the next 20 years to be honest.”
British travel groups warned plastic on beaches was becoming a growing problem and called on tourists to help by checking hotel recycling policies before booking, and only drinking water from reusable bottles or pouches.
Over the past three years the Travel Foundation has organised 142 beach cleans along nearly 100 miles of tourist coastline, collecting 14 tonnes of waste, as part of its ‘Make Holidays Greener’ campaign.’
Ben Lynam, head of communications at the Travel Foundation, said: “It’s becoming a world where litter, and particularly plastic is turning up now even in the remotest places. Tourism itself is partly to blame.
“Westerners travel abroad and don’t or can’t drink the water so are forced to use plastic bottles. And these often end up in the sea.
“Obviously beaches which are covered in litter will not add to the enjoyment of your holiday. That’s why for the last three years we’ve organised litter picks.”
Last year the Ocean Conservancy’s International Coastal Cleanup records of litter picks around the world estimated that 18 million pounds (8 million kilograms) of litter had been removed from the world’s shores and waterways by volunteers.
Items discovered included 97 television sets, 28 refrigerators, 39 toilets, and 54 bicycles.
But the top five most commonly collected items are all forms of plastic debris: cigarette butts, plastic beverage bottles, food wrappers, plastic bottle caps and plastic straws.
Last week at the summit the Indonesian Deputy Minister for Maritime affairs introduced a national strategic plan to reduce plastic waste in coastal areas including charging for plastic bags and ‘knocking on doors’ to attempt to ‘touch the hearts’ of locals and bring about behavioural change.
They have also introduced a special boat which trawls the coast, picking up pieces of litter. The local group Bye Bye Plastic Bags also organises regular litter picks.
A spokesman for Abta, the British association of travel agents and tour operators, said: “Cleaner beaches are good for wildlife, for people and for tourism. Almost two thirds of people who have visited the beach during a holiday said a clean beach is the most important part of their beach trip so it’s important that holidaymakers and the industry work together to take care of destinations and protect the marine environment.
“Holidaymakers can take simple steps, such as taking a re-useable water bottle and bags to the beach rather than relying on disposable plastic, a major source of pollution.”