Tween Activists Taking Out Bali’s Trash Before It Piles Up

As published in The Jakarta Globe Newspaper:

Rubbish in Bali 3

Bali is facing a crisis due to the sheer volume of garbage being churned out daily across the island. It is estimated that about eight million plastic bags are given out in Bali every day. Those bags are used for an average of 30 minutes before being thrown away, eventually ending up in rivers and the ocean and causing untold damage to the environment.

The problem is getting worse every off season, when the monsoons come and the onshore winds strengthen, pushing the trash ashore and leaving Bali’s beaches besieged by plastic. Although Governor I Made Mangku Pastika says the phenomenon is a natural occurrence and happens every year, the situation has been getting worse in recent years.

The mounds of trash now stretch the entire length of the Bali’s busiest tourist strip, from Uluwatu in the south through Kuta and Seminyak, all the way to Canggu to the north.

This alarming situation has prompted many community-based movements across Bali to act to put a halt to this problem.

Melati, 13, and Isabel, 11, are two youngsters who, like millions of others, call Bali their home. Born and bred here, these two energetic sisters grew up hearing stories of how Bali was once a splendid island filled with lush greenery, with the sparkling ocean on its doorstep. This story now, however, seems more like a fairy tale than reality. What was then a pristine mosaic of green and blue is now more likely to be decked out with plastic garbage.

Inspired by world figures like Gandhi and the Dalai Lama, these middle-school students initiated an environmental campaign called “Bye Bye Plastic Bag,” or BBPB.

First launched during the GIN conference in October 2013 — a youth conference that aims to spark ideas and solutions — BBPB is a grassroots initiative that is led and operated by the youth of Bali to ban plastic bags from the island. It aims to collect one million signatures through various events as well as an online petition on to ban the use, sale and production of plastic bags in Bali by 2015.

Local kids with BBPB stickers

The petition has now garnered more than 50,000 signatures, mainly through the Avaaz form. The BBPB team is also organizing visits to local and international schools to spread awareness about their campaign and gain more support from Bali’s youths.

“We’ve got the government commitment on this. If we get one million signatures, we have a weapon. We can show all these signatures to the governor and urge him to create a law that forbids the sale and use of plastic bags in Bali by 2015,” Melati says.

Pastika has indeed set a target to make Bali plastic-free by 2015. Although there is no concrete action yet in this regard by the government, the BBPB team is confident that its campaign can help make this dream come true.

The team now has 15 active members from various schools in Bali who volunteer to be the spokespersons for the cause. BBPB also recently received the approval from the village and the local governments to set up Pererenan village in Canggu as a pilot project to create a plastic-free village.

As a starting point, the BBPB team visited two local grade schools, SDN 1 and SDN 2 Pererenan, in March. The visit was meant to promote the program, where BBPB members aged 10 to 15 tried to get their environmental message across to their peers through games and village clean-up activities.

BBPB continues to recruit more volunteers to support the team and aims to hold various events in the future, including a flash mob and music festival.

Gandhi once said, “Be the change that you wish to see in the world.” These kids are doing their part by working toward the manifestation of those positive changes. It is now our turn to do so.

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As published in The Jakarta Globe Newspaper:

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