Amazing Kids! Magazine

Amazing Kid! of the Month – Melati and Isabel Wijsen – January 2019

Written by Victoria Feng, Editor-in-Chief
Melati and Isabel Wijsen, 15 and 17 year-old founders of Bye Bye Plastic Bags


Quote of the Month

“YOU are that ONE person it takes to start the change.”
-Melati and Isabel Wijsen, 15 and 17 year-old founders of Bye Bye Plastic Bags

January Amazing Kid! of the Month

January is the start of the year, a month of new beginnings.  Some people take advantage of New Year’s Eve to achieve what they’ve been wanting to all year long.  Others use New Year’s Day as a time of new opportunities and chances.  Many people choose to set New Year’s resolutions, such as developing a new habit.

Your New Year’s resolution could also be an opportunity to dive into a fun new project that helps others.  Melati and Isabel Wijsen, founders of the organization Bye Bye Plastic Bags, were inspired to advocate against plastic bags after hearing about what past leaders had done.  Five years later, their organization has received international media attention and has helped raise awareness against plastic bags.  Bye Bye Plastic Bags is a youth-driven organization.

Keep reading to find out more about Melati and Isabel!

Students Speaking Up

As they were learning about how influential world leaders had made history, Melati and Isabel Wijsen decided to think of ways they could help their own community.  After some brainstorming, they came up with an idea: the garbage problem that Bali faced.  They drew from personal experience seeing the trash on the side of the road or in rivers.  In stores, they saw plastic bags being offered all the time.

This needed to change, and Melati and Isabel decided to take matters into their own hands.  The sisters started Bye Bye Plastic Bags in 2013, not setting lofty goals but simply focusing on their project. As their initiative expanded, Melati and Isabel aimed to place a tax on plastic bags like other places around the world and even trying to ban plastic bags altogether.

Spreading Awareness

Their story shows that you don’t have to be a policymaker to make change- kids can become leaders too!  Even though Melati and Isabel were only 10 and 12 when they founded Bye Bye Plastic Bags, they were able to get a response from their governor after going on a hunger strike (they were inspired by Mahatma Gandhi’s hunger strike).  The governor acknowledged the growing need for eliminating plastic bags and supporting their goal in helping making Bali plastic-free.

Despite the victory, Melati and Isabel say that working with the government is one of the hardest challenges they have faced.  Sometimes, due to the complexity of the government, Melati and Isabel face stepbacks.  Working alongside the local government, national government, their own team, and partners has been a tough line to walk.

While Bye Bye Plastic Bags has gotten some extra push from the government, change can start from the consumer.  As Melati and Isabel have said, consumers have the ability to say no to plastic bags at the store, thus breaking the cycle of plastic consumption.  These acts of change can directly help the environment.  Bye Bye Plastic Bags instead suggests shoppers to opt for reusable bags.

Empowering the Youth

Despite winning many prestigious accolades such as Time’s 2019 Teens of the Year and Forbes Most Inspiring Women, Melati and Isabel remain grounded.  They say that their biggest accomplishment is helping empower other youth.  Many other kids are involved in Bye Bye Plastic Bags’s activities and there are 25 BBPB teams around the world.

“We love the idea that we have the ability to inspire and awaken the change maker within some of the brightest young minds out there and set them on a journey of their own,” Melati and Isabel said.

As we ring in 2019, try to identify some things in your community that could use some change.  You don’t have to just focus on helping the environment like Melati and Isabel did, but instead you should look towards things you personally are passionate about.  Do you want to improve education in your area?  Help those in need?  The possibilities are endless, and like Melati and Isabel say, it only takes you to make a change.