SAVING THE PLANET ONE PLASTIC BAG AT A TIME
Melati and Isabel Wijsen, two sisters from the Indonesian island of Bali, started the campaign to ban plastic bags locally and reduce the impact of plastic waste globally, at the ages of 10 and 12, after being inspired by a lesson in school about most influential people of all the time, like Nelson Mandela, Lady Diana, and Mahatma Ghandi. The sisters returned home and asked themselves, “What can we do as children living in Bali, NOW, to make a difference?” And from that thought, Bye Bye Plastic Bags was born and has since reached millions of people worldwide.
Bye Bye Plastic Bags, an NGO was founded in 2013 by the Wijsen sisters.
Melati and Isabel are now 17 and 15 years old respectively, and have successfully raised a lot of awareness in the five years long run since founding the NGO. Their priceless effort has now turned into a well known international movement of inspiration, driven by youth empowerment, and of course, saying NO to plastic bags.
“MAKING A DIFFERENCE THAT CHANGES THE WORLD HAS NO AGE.”
Bye Bye Plastic Bags has been incredibly successful in the past few years, but the organization didn’t come into existence that way. There were many struggles and hardships along the way to make their voice heard and it took a lot to get the organization off the ground. The Wijsen sisters refused to take “no” for an answer and created an army of determined school kids to spread the word. They knocked on doors all over the island. They believe the voice of the youngest generations should have a larger resonance. To achieve their goal, they created petitions for travelers to sign at the airport when getting on and off planes. They launched a website, designed a t-shirts, and even formed beach clean-ups. When the Bali government downplayed them, they fought back and declared that they should be heard.
How did the campaign ignite by storm?
Bye Bye Plastic Bags started by an inspiration, a thought, a determination that eventually took form a petition to get Bali rid of all the plastic bags. “Being kids, we thought if we get one million signatures, they cannot ignore us, they will have no choice,” stated Melati. And so the quest for one million signatures began. The girls made their quest by accessing the Bali airport manager’s office and stated their petition, inspired by the great idea, he let them set up a booth.
With 16 million visitors a year, their petition got required number of signatures, that all within only a few weeks. With the petition success, the group walked into the president of Bali’s office and made their case. They brought facts and figures about plastic waste and succeeded in making their first big positive change. Bali leaders voted to make Bali 70% plastic free by 2025. As it is rightly said:
Strength and growth come only through continuous effort and struggle. -Napoleon Hill
“DON’T LET ANYONE TELL YOU THAT YOU’RE TOO YOUNG OR THAT YOU WON’T UNDERSTAND. WE’RE NOT TELLING YOU IT IS GOING TO BE EASY. WE’RE TELLING YOU THAT IT’S WORTH IT.”
It’s been five years since Bye Bye Plastic Bags was founded and so much progress and success has already been done. There are 5.25 trillion pieces of plastic trash in the world’s oceans, and each year, 8 million tons of plastic are added to the count. That’s according to a 2015 report, which also identified that China, the Philippines, and Indonesia round out the top of the list for where this trash originates from. With that being said, Bye Bye Plastic Bags has really helped Indonesia by cutting their trash down significantly. Bali has gone from using the most plastic to using a lot less at moment. The girls have been promoting on Bali the use of reusable bags and highlighting shops that have stopped selling plastic bags on their social channels. Every little step helps, and even when you think your contribution won’t make a difference, believe me, it really does.
A revolution is a struggle to the death between the future and the past. –Fidel Castro
“WE ARE THE FUTURE, BUT WE ARE HERE NOW, AND WE’RE READY. WE’VE LEARNED KIDS CAN DO THINGS. WE CAN MAKE THINGS HAPPEN.”
Bye Bye Plastic Bags has developed many projects since 2013 with the completion of hundreds of beach pickups. Some of their latest projects include Pilot Village, One Island One Voice Satu Pulau Satu Suara, Educational Booklets, and River Booms. Pilot Village is a monthly project committed to making the village plastic bag free. Every month BBPB distributes alternative bags to the local shops and warungs. One Island One Voice Satu Pulau Satu Suara is a project bringing local businesses together to make the island stronger in terms of reducing waste on the island. Educational Booklets are being written for primary students to learn the harms of plastic on the environment. River Booms is a mission that prevents trash from falling into the ocean. River Booms is an interesting project because the program encourages the DIY culture in students as they create their BOOM from recycled materials..
Robert Birch / Bye Bye Plastic Photography / Justin Hofman / National Geographic / Namhar Hernanto / Zak Noyle
Bye Bye Plastic / Bali / Indonesia / Clean Ocean / Surfaid / Waves For Water / 5 Gyres / Oceana / Take 3 For The Sea / Surfrider Foundation