This young activist explains how to change the world in 3 steps


(Markus Spiske, Unsplash)

This article is brought to you thanks to the collaboration of The European Sting with the World Economic Forum.

Author: Johnny Wood, Writer, Formative Content

  • Two young change-makers have taken decisive action against plastic waste on their home island of Bali.
  • They founded Bye Bye Plastic Bags, a campaign to ban single-use plastics on the island.
  • In 2019, a ban on single-use plastic bags, straws and Styrofoam items was introduced.
  • Now they are advising other would-be campaigners around the world on how to become successful activists.

Around the world, youngsters like Melati Wijsen and her sister, Isabel, are taking a stand, campaigning for change to protect their future and that of the planet.

The girls grew up on the Indonesian island of Bali, where the sun-soaked golden beaches had become strewn with plastic waste washed up by the ocean. So, in 2013, the sisters – then 12 and 10, respectively – decided to do something about it.


Melati has laid out three steps she believes anyone can take to make a change for the better.

Step 1 – Know yourself

“Find that one thing that you’re incredibly passionate about, that you think about 24/7. This is important because focusing on one thing allows you to find that tangible way that you can make a difference.”

— Melati Wijsen, Founder, Bye Bye Plastic Bags

Tired of seeing their island’s beautiful beaches covered in trash, in 2013 the girls founded Bye Bye Plastic Bags (BBPB), a campaign to ban single-use plastics on Bali.

At the start of the campaign, Bali was generating enough plastic every day to fill a 14-storey building. And 95% of plastic bags were thrown away after being used just once.

The BBPB movement mobilized young people on the island to raise awareness of the issue and pressure authorities to take action.

Step 2 – Know how you’re going to reach your goal

“Come up with a timeline. What is step 1? What is step 2? It might not always be easy because it will be different for everybody,” Melati says.

“The goal with Bye Bye Plastic Bags was to ban plastic bags. But we got started by doing beach clean-ups, educational workshops, and talks with a lot of different people campaigning. Those are some of the different ways you can get to your goal.”

The sisters organized beach clean-ups and spoke at schools, festivals and markets. They even went on hunger strike to draw attention to their cause and ultimately convinced the governor of Bali to meet them.

After six years of tireless campaigning, Bali banned single-use plastics in 2019, including bags, straws and Styrofoam items like cups and food containers.


What is the World Economic Forum doing about plastic pollution?

More than 90% of plastic is never recycled, and a whopping 8 million metric tons of plastic waste are dumped into the oceans annually. At this rate, there will be more plastic than fish in the world’s oceans by 2050.

The Global Plastic Action Partnership (GPAP) is a collaboration between businesses, international donors, national and local governments, community groups and world-class experts seeking meaningful actions to beat plastic pollution.

It aims to show how businesses, communities and governments can redesign the global “take-make-dispose” economy as a circular one in which products and materials are redesigned, recovered and reused to reduce environmental impacts.

Step 3 – Don’t try to do it alone

“You need to have a team and surround yourself with like-minded people to take your idea into reality. But where do you go to get a team? We started with our closest friends. Call them, look to your teachers, your parents and your local communities. And if you speak from the heart, people will follow that,” Melati says.

From humble beginnings, the Bye Bye Plastic Bags campaign has spread around the world. There are 50 teams operating in 29 different countries and it has spoken to over 60,000 students.

“Time is ticking. Everything is happening in our lifetime and we know it. The science, the facts, they’re all there…young people are realizing the potential they have to drive change forward.”

— Melati Wijsen, Founder, Bye Bye Plastic Bags

For young people to continue to realize their potential to enact change, Melati is launching a platform called YOUTHTOPIA to empower young people to take action.

Through workshops, gatherings and online classes the new initiative aims to teach would-be activists skills in areas like public speaking, how to organize campaigns, leadership and talking to governments.

“No matter how old you are or where you come from, you can always lead by example. Don’t wait for permission. Don’t wait until you’re older for someone else to make that path for you. Make your own path – and go for it.”

— Melati Wijsen, Founder, Bye Bye Plastic Bags

the sting Milestone

Featured Stings

Can we feed everyone without unleashing disaster? Read on

These campaigners want to give a quarter of the UK back to nature

How to build a more resilient and inclusive global system

Stopping antimicrobial resistance would cost just USD 2 per person a year


At Davos, UN chief urges ‘big emitters’ to take climate action

In Bahrain, Global Forum for Entrepreneurs and Investment examines empowerment of women, youth through innovation

UN chief hails victory of ‘political will’ in historic Republic of North Macedonia accord

COP21 Breaking News_05 December: UN Secretary-General Announces “Climate Action 2016” Partnership

‘Repeated attacks’ could close down key hospital in eastern Libya, says WHO

UN chief highlights action across borders for ‘stable and prosperous Eurasia’

Half the world’s population is still offline. Here’s why that matters

Here’s why China’s trade deal with Mauritius matters

Bangladesh, South Africa and Bolivia all beat the US for women’s representation in politics

Climate change and its adverse impacts on health

Autonomous vehicles could clog city centres: a lesson from Boston

Speeches of Vice Premier LIU He and Vice President of the European Commission Jyrki Katainen at the Press Conference of the Seventh China-EU High-level Economic and Trade Dialogue

Time to make a fundamental choice about the future of healthcare

Thinking throughout HIV: changing a perspective

OECD Steel Committee concerned about excess capacity in steel sector

Building a European Health Union: Stronger crisis preparedness and response for Europe

4 rules to stop governments misusing COVID-19 tech after the crisis

Syrian Government’s ‘different understanding’ of UN role, a ‘very serious challenge’ – Special Envoy

Illicit trade endangers the environment, the law and the SDGs. We need a global response

LGBTQ+: The social evolution of a minority

Seaweed, enzymes and compostable cups: Can ‘Big Food’ take on plastic and win?

Coronavirus: the Commission mobilises all of its resources to protect lives and livelihoods

The EU prepares for the end of LIBOR: the Commission welcomes the agreement reached between the European Parliament and the Council on financial benchmarks

Our healthcare systems are ailing. Here’s how to make them better

Hiring more female leaders is good for profits. Here’s the evidence

Which countries get the most sleep – and how much do we really need?

Cancer research put at risk by General Data Protection Regulation? The possible dangers of a data privacy EU mania

Finland has just published everyone’s taxes on ‘National Jealousy Day’

Fighting against the Public Health System dismantling means guaranteeing assistance to all

8th Euronest Assembly: the future of relations with Eastern partners

Germany may prove right rejecting Commission’s bank resolution scheme

Parliament criticises Council’s rejection of money laundering blacklist

Revamp collective bargaining to prevent rising labour market inequalities in rapidly changing world of work

Summer pause gives time to rethink Eurozone’s problems

China in my eyes

Why 2020 will see the birth of the ‘trust economy’

Costa Rica is one of the world’s happiest countries. Here’s what it does differently

Providing mental health during pandemic times

Four ways Artificial Intelligence can make healthcare more efficient and affordable

Closing the gaps in accelerating women’s rights: the role of medical students

Does Draghi have another ace up his sleeve given his Quantitative Easing failure?

Youth Internationalization: part of everyday life in JADE

The link between air pollution and COVID-19 deaths

Execution of juvenile offender in Iran ‘deeply distressing’ – UN rights chief

Protecting farmers and quality products: vote on EU farm policy reform plans

What’s needed to ensure maternal health for women in vulnerable populations

Historical success for the First ever European Presidential Debate

Trump declares emergency and WHO urges speed – latest coronavirus updates

Joint U.S.-EU Statement following President Juncker’s visit to the White House

10 months were not enough for the EU to save the environment but 2 days are

European Junior Enterprises to address the significant skills mismatch in the EU between school and employment

Schools must look to the future when connecting students to the internet

The European Sting’s 2018 in most critical review

Mental health in midst of a pandemic: can we help?

EU ready to relinquish its internal tax havens

Why youth unemployment is so difficult to counter

‘Maintain calm’ and ‘exercise patience’ UN envoy urges, as Nigeria heads to polls

Why the 21st century’s biggest health challenge is our shared responsibility

Eurozone: Negative statistics bring deflation and recession closer

More Stings?


Speak your Mind Here

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s