5 years ago, two teen ladies decided to do something and stop the plastic pollution on their home island of Bali. And, their dream became a reality as Bye Bye Plastic Bags was born.
These young women, named Melati and Isabel Wijsen are so young that one hasn’t still graduated high school whereas the older one, Melati, is only 18.
Bali, part of the island nation of Indonesia, is the second biggest polluter in the world when it comes to marine plastic, after China that’s on the first place.
When oceans carry this plastic to the island of Bali, it’s a PR nightmare. This is why the two sisters decided to do something and came up with an excellent plan.
Back in 2013, after a lesson in school about influential world leaders and change makers like Martin Luther King Jr. and Nelson Mandela, they went home and started thinking about what they could do as children living on this marvelous island to cease the plastic pollution.
Young & already Making a Difference
The sisters didn’t want to wait until they were older to make the needed changes. And, there was no thought about this. They felt they needed to do something at the moment.
They had enough of constantly being wrapped by plastic waste when they were swimming in the water. When they went online, they found out that more than 40 countries had banned or put taxes on plastic bags.
So, they wanted to do the same in Bali and Indonesia.
Without a business plan or a strategy and a budget, the girls went forward with genuine passion and desire to make their island clean and plastic free.
Together with a group of friends, they released a petition online and got 6000 signatures in less than 24 hours. They began spreading the idea in school and community workshops.
To push things further, they decided to go on a food strike. The sisters were inspired by Gandhi who had a peaceful method of reaching his goals and being heard.
They published details about their plan on social media. And, local media noticed these ideas and soon enough, the governor at the time invited the two girls to come and see him.
Within a day, they talked on the phone and on the next day, they were picked up from their school and driven to the governor’s’ office.
The governor I Made Pastika signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the two girls so that they can work together in removing plastic from their island.
Later on, he also pledged to remove plastic bags by 2018. Even though this didn’t happen, the sisters continued their government engagement at all levels. In the process, the sisters learned a lot about politicians.
In the past year, the sisters have been on the road and speaking to spread the anti-plastic message and empower youth to be more aware.
They also had a TED talk and spoke at the UN in New York.
Last year, they spoke at the IMF World Bank Forum in Bali. Kristalina Georgieva, CEO of World Bank, called Melati ‘a girl who’s changing the world around her’.
Forbes named them the most influential teenagers.
Their Efforts Are Bringing Fruits
Last month, the new governor of Bali announced that there will be a law prohibiting single-use plastic in 2019, thanks to the girls’ efforts and NGOs.
The businesses will have 6 months to comply or face their permits being revoked.
For the sisters, this was amazing news. However, they claim more work is necessary to spread this non-plastic gospel around the world.
Bye Bye Plastics is now in 28 locations worldwide and young people are leading it. They have a starter kit and a handbook which shows them how to launch a movement. This is an excellent platform for children to speak up and have someone hear their words.
For the girls, young people need to be the one who’re working toward the future and demanding change.
The older sister, Melati, has recently graduated high school and is fully dedicated to campaigning. She says that this is like a full-time job. Her mother is helping her balance in life, not just go to the beach to clean up, but also to find time to enjoy.