In this series of articles, we’ll profile conservation organizations focused on ocean protection. Today we’re talking with Melati and Isabel Wijsen, the teenage founders of Bye Bye Plastic Bags.
What does Bye Bye Plastic Bags do?
Bye Bye Plastic Bags is a youth-driven initiative to make the people on Bali say no to plastic bags. What started as a friends’ initiative has now become a globally known NGO to reduce plastic bag use while promoting youth empowerment.
How and why did it start?
A lesson at school about significant people inspired us. They wanted to do something remarkable but not wait until they were adults. Looking at the issues Bali faces, we decided to fight the plastic bags now. The idea was born.
We started 5 years ago without an agenda or plan, just the pure intention to make our island free of the polluting plastic bags. Since then, the team of BBPB has been focusing on four pillars:
Education: We have given our presentation to over 16,000 students in eight different countries in five languages. Our team members, students in Bali, come from all over the globe. We also created an educational booklet that we share for free to elementary schools in Bali in Bahasa Indonesia.
Awareness: We do fun stuff at festivals and markets and conduct beach clean-ups to make everyone aware of the plastic pollution on our island and ocean.
Pilot village: For two years now we have partnered with a pilot village that we visit on a regular basis, to talk with the shops and neighborhoods. We tell them about the effect of the single-use plastic bags and hand out alternatives. We have also been active at the elementary schools and built a BBPB kite to get them involved in a fun way. The village is now about 60 to 70 percent plastic-bag free!
Going global: After the TED talk came out, a lot of students from all over the world contacted us and ask to do the same in their homes. We have now officially launched in nine other countries all over the world and have 15 other countries in the pipeline as we speak.
How many people are involved and what are their roles?
We have a team of about 30 people coming and going, as Bali sees a lot of transitional residents. We have two founders and four board members who have a larger role in operations and event organization. A few adults volunteer to help with administration, legal advice, and logistics.
How can people help?
It’s easy! Start by saying no to plastic bags and take your own reusable bags when shopping. You can also like our Facebook page and share it with your friends to raise awareness about what we are doing. You can also join BBPB in one of eight countries and become a volunteer or donate through our website and help us in our mission to get rid of plastic bags.