Two Teenagers Convinced Bali to Ban Plastic Bags

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High school students Melati and Isabel Wijsen want to say goodbye to plastic bags in Bali. A few years ago, the sisters learned that plastic bags were contributing to pollution and waste problems in Bali, clogging up waterways and covering the island’s famous beaches in trash, so they decided to start an environmental organization called Bye Bye Plastic Bags. Since then, the sisters have cleaned up beaches, started petitions, and organized awareness-raising events. Recently, they achieved their greatest victory yet: They convinced the governor of Bali, I Made Mangku Pastika, to ban plastic bags by 2018.

According to One Green Planet, Bali has long attracted tourists with its pristine beaches and clear waters, but in recent years, plastic waste and litter have started to mar the once-idyllic island. When the then-10-year-old Isabel and 13-year-old Melati learned about Bali’s trash problem in 2013, they were initially overwhelmed. “In Bali, we generate 680 cubic meters of plastic garbage a day,” said Isabel in a recent TED Talk. “That’s about a 14-story building. And when it comes to plastic bags, less than five percent gets recycled.” 

The sisters decided that, rather than target all of Bali’s trash and recycling problems, they would focus on eliminating plastic bags. Since then, Bye Bye Plastic Bags has made significant strides to reduce plastic bag waste in Bali, and the sisters have spoken to more than 5000 students around the world about the importance of developing waste-management strategies. Their goal is both to reduce plastic bag waste in Bali and to show kids around the world that they can have a real impact on policy-making. “Don’t ever let anyone tell you that you’re too young or you won’t understand,” said Isabel in her TED Talk. “We’re not telling you it’s going to be easy. We’re telling you it’s going to be worth it.” Check out Melati and Isabel’s TED Talk below.

[h/t One Green Planet]