“Welcome to Bali. Do you have any plastic bags to declare?”
It all started with a dream of doing good that has impact to the world. It became an idea to create a movement on the island where they were born and raised, which has issues with trash, especially plastic trash, for years.
Bye Bye Plastic Bags, the biggest children-led movement
Melati & Isabel initiated Bye Bye Plastic Bags, the biggest children-led movement in Bali, and possibly in the country. They wanted the place they love to be free of trash, especially plastic trash. Therefore, they started a movement with their best friends to ban plastic bags in Bali. They gave talks in schools in Bali about the danger of using plastic bags and held beach clean-up days.
But it would be nothing without the official support from the government of Bali. They found out that they can get the government’s attention if they could collect one million signatures and so they did. Both girls went to Ngurah Rai International Airport to get more signatures. They even carried out a food strike, just like their role model Mahatma Gandhi, to gain the government attention.
And it worked. The girls met up with the governor of Bali and received a letter from the Bali provincial government environmental agency saying Bali would be plastic bag free by 2018.
And it didn’t stop there. They gained support from the Ministry of Marine Affairs and Fisheries, to start a pilot program in the village of Pererenan, Bali. Pererenan village is a home to 800 local families. Every Saturday, the Bye Bye Plastic Bags team distributes alternative bags to the local shops and warungs.
They learnt to adapt their way of influencing because no change will happen without the local support. They also work with influential people, such as the governor of Bali, to raise awareness about using more sustainable shopping bags.
A growing movement around the world
The movement is becoming famous around the world, especially after their TEDTalk in London. It has inspired youth from all over the world to initiate Bye Bye Plastic Bags in their country. You can find the initiative in countries like Australia, Nepal, Myanmar, China, Singapore, and Philippines. You can find it also in cities like Jakarta, New York, and Guadalajara.
It all started with a dream, which is now becoming an inspirational youth movement. The girls realised that their initiative is still a long way from perfection. They continue to raise awareness about the danger of using plastic bags by creating an educational booklet aimed at elementary school students. It is packed with information on how to make your own bags, waste management, and pollution.
“Change doesn’t happen if no one is educated,” said Melati.
All pictures taken from their Facebook page.