Melati and Isabel Wijsen were just 12 and 10 when a lesson at school about leaders like Nelson Mandela, Lady Diana, and Mahatma Gandhi inspired them to think about what they could do right now, as children living in Bali, to make a difference in the world. Having experienced the ocean plastic crisis firsthand on their home island of Bali, the sisters founded Bye Bye Plastic Bags as a nonprofit organization with the goal of achieving an island-wide ban on single-use plastic bags.
Together, they started a petition, collected nearly 100,000 signatures, and went on a hunger strike to convince Bali’s government to enact a single-use plastic bag ban — and succeeded. As of June 23, 2019, Bali has banned all single-use plastic bags from the island as well as plastic straws and Styrofoam.
With Melati and Isabel leading the way, Bye Bye Plastic Bags has since launched many new and successful projects aimed at ridding Bali of plastic and solving the ocean plastic crisis. They’ve spoken at 375 events, shared their incredible story of perseverance with 60,000 students, and inspired the creation of 50 youth-led BBPB teams around the world.
We chose to partner with Bye Bye Plastic Bags because they’re committed to empowering people, especially young people, to do what’s right for the environment. Our $50,000 donation supports initiatives like their One Island One Voice campaigns, Bali’s Biggest Cleanup, Komitmen, Mountain Mamas, and educational booklets for local elementary schools across Indonesia. Each of these projects proves that, with a little forethought and a lot of hard work, it’s possible to make strides against ocean plastic pollution at any age.
4ocean and Bye Bye Plastic Bags have so much in common: our origin stories, our missions, and our mutual desire to empower women and uplift communities.
While our cleanup operations create jobs all over the world, our bracelet assembly operation is unique in that it provides opportunities for women to learn a skill, earn an income, and contribute to a more sustainable future, all while continuing to care for their homes, families, and communities. In fact, about 80% of our artisanal workforce is comprised of women.
BBPB started a social enterprise called Mountain Mamas that also empowers local women in the mountains of Bali. Through this project, the women learn to design and sew beautiful, handmade, reusable bags using donated or recycled materials. Not only does this create a solution that eliminates the need for single-use plastic bags, it also equips women with skills they can use to earn their own income and improve their standard of living
Buying a Mountain Mama Bag contributes to a more sustainable lifestyle in the village of Wanagiri Kauh where the women live and work. Half of the sales profit from the bags they make is reinvested in Bye Bye Plastic Bags. The other half is invested in the health, education, and waste management of the village.
Melati and Isabel launched Bye Bye Plastic Bags in October 2013. By January 2014, they had collected over 87,000 signatures from people who supported an island-wide ban on plastic bags. At least 10,000 of these signatures were collected in-person at Ngurah Rai International Airport.
In November 2014, Melati and Isabel met Bali’s governor, Mangku Pastika, to discuss the island’s plastic problem. He signed a non-binding pledge to make Bali plastic bag free by 2018. His successor, Governor Koster, signed the ban into law after his election in December 2018. On June 23, 2019, the law banning plastic bags, straws, and Styrofoam packaging officially went into effect on the island.
As of June 23, 2019, Bali’s government has banned the use of not only single-use plastic bags, but also plastic straws and Styrofoam on the island under governor’s regulation Pergub #97 2018. Now, Melati and Isabel are launching new projects to spread awareness about the ocean plastic crisis and encourage young people around the world to take action on behalf of the environment.
One Island One Voice is a Bali-based network of organizations active in the field of waste prevention and management. Each year, they host Bali’s Biggest Annual Cleanup. If you live or operate a business in the area, consider signing up as a coordinator on February 15, 2020.
The message that even kids can make a difference is resonating with young people around the world. Now, you can step up and encourage your community to say no to plastic bags, too! Join your local BBPB team or start one in your own city.
Melati and Isabel know that real change happens in the classroom. They’ve created educational booklets to teach other children about plastic pollution and share solutions. One of our favorites is a fun DIY project that transforms old t-shirts into stylish reusable bags.