Melati and Isabel Wijsen, two sisters from the Indonesian island of Bali, are campaigning to ban plastic bags locally and reduce the impact of plastic waste globally. The sisters have been campaigning for four years to get plastic bags banned from the iconic island. When they started out they were only 10 and 12. They are finally about to succeed!
Indonesia is the second largest plastic polluter in the world after China — its plastic waste accounts for 10 per cent of marine plastic pollution. The Indonesian Government has pledged to invest over $1 billion in reducing this pollution, as according to the UN’s Clean Seas program. They plan on reducing the pollution by 70% by 2025.
When the wet-season arrives and the winds turn, beaches on Bali are hit by the annual ‘trash season.’ The local government downplays the event as a ‘natural phenomenon’.
The sisters were inspired by a lesson they had at school. The lesson discussed powerful world leaders that had affected change:
“We had a lesson in class about positive world leaders, change makers like Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King, Lady Diana, and I remember at the ages of 10 and 12 we went home thinking about what we could do as kids from an island. We didn’t want to wait until we were older to stand up for what we believe in.”
They didn’t wait but instead they founded an organisation called Bye Bye Plastic Bags, an NGO driven by young people determined to get the population of Bali to say no to plastic bags. The cause has taken the teens around the world, even making an appearance at the UN.
The sisters have noted that only 5 per cent of plastic bags get recycled in Bali, but the island produces 680 cubic meters of plastic garbage a day – the equivalent of a 14-story building. In their bid to get the local government to pay attention, they started a petition. They obtained over 100,000 signatures.