240,000 single-use plastic bags are used every 10 seconds worldwide. Sisters Melati and Isabel Wijsen are fighting to ban them in Bali by 2018.

By Interview by Lauren Paige Kennedy; Produced by Lauren Phillips
October 11, 2017

Melati and Isabel Wijsen, Co-founders, Bye Bye Plastic Bags

Who runs the world? Girls! Meet the Bali-based Wijsen sisters, Melati and Isabel, who four years ago (at ages 12 and 10, respectively) decided to become global leaders after studying change makers like Nelson Mandela and Mahatma Gandhi. The girls formed Bye Bye Plastic Bags and, in the years since, have mobilized kids like them to help save the planet.

Below, Melati and Isabel share their tips on finding your passion and how their organization is blazing the trail for future changemakers. 

Coastal Living: Four years into the Bye Bye Plastic Bags project, are things continuing to move forward?

Melati Wijsen: We have energy, and the momentum that we’re picking up right now is so enormous. For us, it was always not the question if but when Bali is going to become plastic bag free. That’s pretty powerful.

CL: How can other people, young or old, follow in your footsteps?

Isabel Wijsen: Find that one thing that makes you passionate amidst everything and set yourself a realistic goal. It can sometimes get overwhelming, but we each have a role to play. No matter how small or big, it is important to make that first step.

CL: How does your organization help others start their own Bye Bye Plastic Bag Initiatives?

MW: We really feel that the Bye Bye Plastic Bags team has set up a new path where new changemakers can jump on board. We really want this to be a platform for kids to feel like they make a difference, and for them to use this platform and use this knowledge and use the materials so they don’t have to reinvent the wheel every time. We’re all connected and we’re really now becoming a global family. Our message is saying no to plastic bags, but we embody and become the living example that kids can do things. I think that’s one of the most powerful sides of this whole movement.

CL: How does being so young help your efforts?

MW: Our generation is the first generation to really harness [the] power [of youth] and use it to create social change. We are starting to see it that there’s a real gratefulness for it, as well, but it’s now the question of how can we be taken as more than just an inspiration. How can we really earn ourselves a seat at the table, and have a part and a say in the decisions that are being made today?

CL: How does spreading awareness of the plastic problem help your cause?

IW: The more the people are aware of this issue, the more solutions we see rising. With these solutions, everybody is working together toward healing our oceans.

MW: There is a total awakening of people in our generation standing up for what they believe in.


Some 240,000 single-use plastic bags are used every 10 seconds worldwide, contributing to 280 million tons of plastic waste annually. Get into the habit of bringing your own reusable totes to the grocery store. Yes, every single time; byebyeplasticbags.org