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Pirates' Stories

The Girl Who Fights Plastic Pollution | Talk With Melati Wijsen

Plastic pollution is one of the greatest environmental issues we are facing today. Plastic and microplastic are everywhere; in our oceans, in nature and in the air that we breathe. It affects wildlife, habitats and our health. Studies have showed that we ingest 5 g of micro plastic every week – that’s as much as a credit card! 20-year-old Melati Wijsen from Bali finds it dreadful. When she and her sister were 12 and 10 years old respectively, they started the movement Bye Bye Plastic Bags, hoping to ban all plastic bags from Bali.

We thought we could achieve the goal of banning plastic bags on Bali within a summer and here we are seven years later still on the frontlines.

– Melati Wijsen

Both her mission and her achievements so far are impressive. In 2018 they successfully reached their goal of banning plastic bags, and since then their work has been featured by Forbes and Times and Melati has been invited to TED conferences and the World Economic Forum. She might be young, but when it comes to her mission she is absolutely unstoppable. But what drives her? What keeps her going?

What gets me up in the morning is the excitement to do something big, to do something different. There is never a dull moment in the life of a young changemaker.

– Melati Wijsen

Being a Young Changemaker

Melati has a strong vision and she will do everything in her power to see it realized. However, starting her mission at the age of 12, she faced a lot of obstacles simply because she was so young. “In the beginning we were met with a lot of ‘aww, they are so cute!‘ The challenge was to get this little group of cute kids taken seriously. That’s when persistence and commitment and never giving up really played a huge role.

In addition to those unhelpful reactions from their community, they also struggled with understanding the language of policy making. Luckily, they received help from adults who believed in their vision. In the end, what really convinced the policy makes to ban plastic from Bali was that they came to every meeting and that they came prepared. They knew what they wanted to achieve and how they wanted to communicate that message. This was key.

If you are a young changemaker and you want to create change, what specifically is the change you want to achieve?

– Melati Wijsen

You need to get very specific, says Melati. It is a lot harder to get attention and to convince your audience if you want to change everything. No one will take such a goal seriously. So start small and then grow it from there. Watch Melati’s advice on how to make a difference in just 3 steps, that she shared with the World Economic Forum below.

Succeeding as a Young Changemaker

Saving Bali from plastic pollution is Melati’s mission, and so she focuses all her time and energies on that. She even spoke with her school, so she could create her own timetable that would give her more time to focus on her work.

You need to be clear on priorities and what matters to you.

– Melati Wijsen

Further tips from Melati on how to make real change are the following:

  • Find that one thing you’re passionate about
  • Find your unique way of tackling it
  • Be confident about your vision
  • Know that your vision is bigger than you and be patient with yourself
  • Set yourself clear goals and create manageable action steps
  • GO FOR IT! – start today!

How Can You Support Melati?

Melati focuses on Bali because a proper waste management system is seriously lacking there, but plastic pollution is harming all of us. So what can we do as individuals to support Melati’s vision and mission?

There is a lot we can do as individuals by understanding what we are consuming and where it is ending up. It is an interesting question to ask yourself: Do you know where your trash goes after you put it into your bin?

– Melati Wijsen

Get curious about the waste management system in your local community and make sure to throw your trash out properly.

If you want to get more closely involved with Melati, you can apply to become a global team leader for Bye Bye Plastic Bags or join local teams. Elias Okur from Moonshot Pirates want to start a team in Vienna. Super cool! If you want to get involved as well, you can read more about that program here.

Want to learn more about Melati and hear about her other projects and her upcoming documentary? Watch the full Pirates Talk with her below 👇 and be blown away by this young power woman! For more talks with changemakers please check Moonshot Pirates Talks & Webinars.

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