Two teenage sisters have taken a stand against pollution in Bali – and they’ve convinced the government to ban plastic bags by the year 2018. The island suffers from a crushing plastic pollution problem, so Isabel and Melati Wijsen decided to take action and start Bye Bye Plastic Bags to mobilize other kids and adults to work toward a cleaner Bali. To achieve the goal, the girls have organized beach clean-ups, put on a fashion show, given a TED talk, gone on a hunger strike, and met with the UN Secretary General.
“In Bali, we generate 680 cubic meters of plastic garbage every day. That’s about a 14-story building. And when it comes to plastic bags, less than 5 percent get recycled,” said Isabel.
Plastic doesn’t simply litter the lush island landscapes; it poses a major health hazard. According to the ROLE Foundation, plastic waste in Bali is often burned, which releases methane and other toxins that have been connected to cancer and birth defects. If plastic bags and packaging continue to be consumed – but rarely recycled – the Ellen MacArthur Foundation predicts that by 2050, there will be more plastic than fish in the ocean.
They won their biggest victory when Bali governor I Made Mangku Pastika signed an MOU, or Memorandum of Understanding, the first step to a formal agreement. In the past, Pastika said the trash piling up in Bali was a “natural phenomenon,” but he later agreed to meet with the Wijsens after they had been campaigning for a year. He reportedly said he was very touched by their movement and said, “I will commit to it and I even want to become a leading member of your team.”
These sisters are just getting started. If you’d like to help, you can sign their Avaaz petition to persuade the governor to be faithful to his promise and pass legislation to turn their dreams into law.