Two teenage girls get plastic bags banned in Bali!

Posted on 24 January 2017.

Plastic bags will be banned on the island of Bali from 2018,. It’s the result of a battle led by Melati and Isabel Wisen - an inspiration for young people right across the globe.

The Bye Bye Plastic Bags project is now being developed by children in Australia, China, Nepal, Singapore, Burma, the Philippines and even New York!

With its sandy beaches and turquoise waters, the island of Bali in Indonesia attracts more than 18 million visitors every year. Numbers that are not without impact on the environment: every day, 680 m3 of plastic waste is thrown away by tourists - equivalent to the volume of 14 buildings!

But what happens to all this waste? Only 5% is recycled, some is incinerated - releasing CO2 and toxic fumes - but the vast majority ends up in the jungle or in the ocean where it takes 4000 years to degrade. And so two young sisters decided to do something about the ecological fate of their island.

Bye Bye Plastic bags

Melati and Isabel Wisen were only 12 and 10 when in 2013 they created the association "Bye Bye Plastic Bags". Purely and simply their goal was to ban the use of plastic bags on the island.

The initiative was nurtured at school: the "Green school" in Bali, which, as the name suggests, provides very early education in environmental and sustainable development issues for its students. With a team including some of their classmates, the girls began to develop local actions: presentations in public spaces, beach cleaning, distributing alternative bags (organic or recycled paper), petitions, etc.

In 2014, even Ban Ki Moon - the Secretary-General of the United Nations - got wind of their project and publicized the initiative. A few months later, in 2015, Melati and Isabel were received by the Governor of Bali so they could present their arguments. The result? A law banning plastic bags on the island will be introduced in 2018. An outright victory for all the children involved in the Bye Bye Plastic Bags association!

An inspiring international movement for young people

Until the decision becomes reality, the two sisters are traveling the world to spread their initiative, in particular visiting schools. They are now the symbol of a young generation that is acting for and committed to the planet. Their struggle is echoed in many other countries - the Bye Bye Plastic Bags project has been taken up by children in Australia, China, Nepal, Singapore, Burma, the Philippines and even New York!

At a recent TED conference in London, the two Balinese youngsters called upon young people to become stakeholders in change. "There's no need to wait to be an adult to make a difference. We’re not telling you it will be easy, but we’re telling you it's worth it," they insist. A message of hope and energy that reminds us that the circular economy and sustainable development mean nothing without the individual commitment of citizens - including the youngest ones.

Find out more:

- "Frusack" – the ecological alternative to plastic bags
- Plastic bags lead a double life
- Wecyclers – or how to encourage people to start recycling