unesco Building peace in the minds of men and women

“Start with one thing” with Melati Wijsen

Melati Wijsen launched the Bye Bye Plastic Bags movement to rid Bali of single-use plastic bags with her sister Isabel when she was 12.

“Start with one thing” with Melati Wijsen

Image credit: Erik Ginanjar Nugraha

 “This world demands the qualities of youth; not a time of life but a state of mind, a temper of the will, a quality of the imagination, a predominance of courage over timidity, of the appetite for adventure over the love of ease.”

Robert F. Kennedy, 1966

These words are as relevant today as they were when first spoken.

#TrashHack is about fostering the ideas of young people and giving you a platform. UNESCO believes in the strength of youth and wants to stand with you to lead this change.

An amazing example to follow is Melati Wijsen, a 19-year-old Indonesian climate activist who launched Bye Bye Plastic Bags movement, a campaign to rid Bali of single-use plastic bags, with her sister Isabel when she was 12.

Read about her story and get inspired for action!  

What made you first pay attention to the waste issues in Bali?

Growing up here on the island, plastic was everywhere.

Already at an early age, we knew that something was wrong. Plastic should not end up in our oceans, in our rivers, on our beaches. It was interrupting our play dates, our adventures out into Mother Nature.

We wanted to protect our beautiful environment. 

Bali’s Biggest Clean Up 2020 Credit: Jenya Kadnikova

Why did you start Bye Bye Plastic Bags? 

We started Bye Bye Plastic Bags because we thought that enough was enough. We needed to do something about it. We didn’t want to wait until we were older to start taking action.

Besides, we had no business plan, no strategy. We just had a big vision and passion to protect our island home. So we just got started. 

How did the campaign against plastic bags teach you about waste and sustainability in your region?

We learned so much! Bye Bye Plastic Bags is our life school, it taught us so much more than any textbook ever will be able to.

We learned about how education plays a huge role in changing mindsets, we learned how there is a willingness but lack of knowledge or accessible solutions in order to change. Young people can be the bridge to connect all of those dots. 

What tips would you give a young person wishing to start acting against waste?

Start with one thing, really do it good.

Understanding your local surrounding is what will create a longterm foundation for you to keep on growing your plight against plastic or waste. 

A tip that never gets old and that you cant hear enough: build a team around you! 

Seseh Beach Clean-Up 2019 Credit: Erik Ginanjar Nugraha

What tips would you give a young person about convincing their communities to join with them to live more sustainably?

Do your homework on the local situation!

Understand what is already happening in your local communities toward sustainability. Who are the key players in moving this forward, and who are the key players to slow down the change? Once you understand this – it’ll help you find a unique way to move people along.

I also think, at the end of the day it is when we lead by example that people will join us. Lead by example but also lead from a place of passion.  

How has action on waste transformed your life?

Through my journey with BBPB I have learned so much about myself and about the life and impact I want to create.

This opportunity has shown me all of what is possible. It excites me and it challenges me to be the best version of myself every single day. 

Be inspired by Melati and Bye Bye Plastic Bags to #TrashHack the plastic in your area.

Start by asking:

  • What plastic do you notice when you look around your neighborhood?
  • What are the regulations around plastic bag usage where you live?
  • What can you do to change consumption of plastic?
  • Do you have a family member, friend or neighbor you could work together with on a project in your area?

You can also see if Bye Bye Plastic Bags has a group in your area or be part of new project led by the two sisters: Youthtopia, a community of young change-makers you can be part of!

And remember to share your own actions with us and the world with #TrashHack!

Melati Wijsen at Bantar Gebang, 2019