Melati and Isabel Wijsen/image source
I am always so inspired when I hear stories of children taking their future, and the future of the planet into their own hands. When I read a story about Balinese sisters Melati and Isabel Wijsen endeavouring to ban plastic bags from Bali, I needed to know more about the courageous duo.
The sisters, becoming disheartened by the amount of single use plastics littering their streets and beaches, decided to take action by starting the campaign "Bye Bye Plastic Bags". It hasn't been an
easy task for them as they set out to collect 1 million signatures in favour of banning plastic bags for good. Their plan was to present the signatures to the Indonesian government in the hope that one day plastic bags will be outlawed completely. Logically, they spent their days at Ngurah Rai International Airport asking for support from tourists. It was a huge success and they were able to
collect 100,000 signatures in a short time. When they aren't busy petitioning, they travel to Balinese schools, giving talks on the importance of environmental protection as well as organising beach clean-up days.
They became inspired for change as they learned information about their country that shocked them deeply. In 2010 Indonesia produced 3.22 million tonnes of mismanaged waste, which is 10% of the world total. Most of this waste litters the streets and rivers of Bali, as there is no recycling systems or garbage collecting facilities on the island. During monsoon season the rubbish gets washed to the coastline, and inevitably into the oceans. Thankfully statistics like these did not dishearten the sisters. As they began researching they discovered that similar campaigns were occurring all over the world. Rwanda banned polyethylene bags in 2008 and just last week Kenya did the same!
In 2014, after still no response from the Indonesian government, the girls returned from a trip to Mahatma Gandhi’s birth place in India. They say much of their success came from the legacy of Gandhi’s hunger strike and their desire to do the same. They vowed not to eat from dawn to dusk in the hope that it would attract the attention of those in power. It took only 2 days for the girls to be summoned to the Governor Made Mangku Pastikas' office, where he praised them for their dedication to environmental protection. They are proud to say that they are good friends with the Governor, who continues to support them in their fight for a plastic free Bali.
During March 2015, they received a letter from the Balinese Provincial Government saying that Bali would be free from plastic bags by 2018, an amazing achievement on behalf of Melati and Isabel. This change, although it may seem simple, will have a huge impact on the Balinese environment and wellbeing of it's people. The government hopes that the change will also encourage more tourism to their beautiful island.
Melati and Isabel, here at Eco Food Wrap we honour the courage and dedication you have shown us throughout your campaign for a greener world. Your strength and determination is beyond inspiring as you have paved the way for change the world desperately needs. Through educating those around you, you are leaving a legacy much larger than you can imagine. Thank you :)
Be sure to check out their TED talk here, and you can find their plastic bag petition here.
Do you know any other inspirational stories about pioneering eco-warriors that are making great changes to better our planet? Let us know in the comments below!