A steady diet of Instagram naturally leaves you jonesing to ditch your daytime hustle in favor of doing yoga on the pristine beaches of Bali. But what an idealized view of this island paradise rarely depicts accurately is the country’s serious litter problem. It’s so acute that officials recently declared a “garbage emergency.” And though this is obviously aesthetically unpleasant for visitors, the issues are more serious and wide-reaching.
Thankfully, Melati and Isabel Wijsen, Bali natives and sisters, are campaigning to ban plastic bags locally and reduce the impact of plastic waste globally. The sisters are now 17 and 15, but they founded their organization, Bye Bye Plastic Bags, in 2013, when an inspirational school lesson prompted them to ask, “What can we do as children living in Bali, now, to make a difference?”
In the past five years, the campaign has developed into a well-known international movement, and they are an official non-governmental organization run specifically by the young people of Bali. Bye Bye Plastic Bags has four main pillars of focus: education; a plastic-free pilot village; their one island, one voice campaign; and global expansion. The Wijsen sisters speak in schools throughout Bali, helping students learn about the dangers of the plastic bag problem. Their pilot village is an area where they distribute reusable bags to residents to show them they don’t need the single-use plastic bags that proliferate SE Asia. The one island, one voice campaign rewards local business who are plastic bag free with recognition. And, the sisters are connecting with their peers across the globe, while also setting a standard for adults through speaking engagements, like their recent address at the United Nations on World Oceans Day.
“2018 has got to be the year,” Isabel Wijsen says. “We’re not going anywhere until Bali is plastic bag free.”
To learn about Bye Bye Plastic Bags and the steps these inspiring young women intend to take in the future, check out the video below. Bali is facing a growing crisis, but the island’s youth have a sound plan. It’s time to follow their lead and give them support.