It doesn’t take much to see that this island is drowning in plastic, and that there is no escaping from this reality. Who is going to do something about it? Sometimes we forget that it only takes one person to create change. Instead of pointing fingers, asking people to change the world, why not look at ourselves and start from there.
Bye Bye Plastic Bags (BBPB) is one of the examples. This is a social initiative driven by youth to get the people of Bali to say no to plastic bags. This organisation was started by two young sisters when they were 10 and 12 years old after being inspired by a lesson in class about changemakers. They decided not to wait until they were older to start making a difference on this island.
Fast forward five years, BBPB has now become a youth-driven NGO with the aim of making Bali plastic bag free. Starting from an idea conceived on a couch, it is now a movement of 30 students in Bali, 20 cities across the world, and millions of supporters watching whether or not Bali is really going plastic bag free this year. For the last few years, the campaign has been working towards the big year of 2018. The team of youths have been able to meet with many key people, including Mangku Pastika as the current Governor of Bali and some national ministers. They have held meetings with nearly every governmental department and all of Bali’s nine head of regions to prove that their idea is feasible, economically more beneficial and practical for everyone living on this island.
The team of youth at BBPB are kept busy on a daily basis. Most of their activities take place on the weekends, such as beach clean-ups, plastic bag exchange and alternative bag making workshops. However, they believe that real change happens in the classroom. Thus, they approached around 18,000 students and created two educational booklets in the local language for elementary school students, which are being distributed on a large scale.
Communication with the local communities is the key element. In order to change public mindset, BBPB works closely with local villages for some projects. These include building River Boom school programmes and establishing a social enterprise ‘Mountain Mama’s’ to empower women to produce alternative forms of bags from donated materials then given to local shops in the area. This action ensures that they are involving the local communities and convince local shopkeepers to stop giving plastic bags for free or to simply start using alternatives.
As a grassroots organisation that is youth-led, they have always understood the importance of working together with all levels of society. This includes the government. To keep reminding the government that change still needs to happen and that they are not going anywhere until it does, BBPB sets up weekly meetings with the regional departments with a national scope. It is not an easy task and requires a long process. They are definitely aware of the emergency and need for change. However, it is not a matter of how, but more a question of who. Be it local, regional or national government, the question remains the same, “Are they ready to make the change, or they prefer to leave it up to the grassroots organisations to do the job?” 40 other countries around the world have implemented a final stage of ‘saying no to plastic bags’, and the people and businesses of Bali are ready to do so too.
Today, BBPB can be found across 20 cities around the world, driven by young kids in middle school, high school and universities. They have literally embodied the message that kids can also do big things, and BBPB is the living example.
Their newest action comes in the form of a ‘Komitmen’. Through this, they invite individuals, organisations, companies and government offices in Bali to eliminate the use of the most pervasive plastics in our environment and to promote waste separation at the source in order to promote better recycling and waste management. If you are interested in joining this cause, simply write an email to email@example.com. BBPB is planning to have a thousand Bali-based businesses on board with the ‘Komitmen’ by the end of September, and they will use it as pressure for the government to take the action. The government will finally realise that industries are moving away from plastic, with or without them.
Bye Bye Plastic Bags