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NewsDefend the Planet

This Indonesian Teen Is Taking on Her Country's Plastic Pollution

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A 17-year-old Indonesian is tackling the garbage emergency in her country head-on.

Melati Wijsen is an eco-minded teenager leading the charge against plastic pollution across her native Southeast Asian homeland, reports CNBC — and she’s already launching two campaigns to clean up the islands.

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"What can we do as kids living on the island of Bali?" Wijsen asked herself five years ago, as she was confronted with the mass pollution across her country.

As it turns out, quite a lot.

Inspired by South African anti-apartheid revolutionary leader Nelson Mandela and Indian activist Mahatma Gandhi, Mijsen partnered with her sister to form Bye Bye Plastic Bags, a platform to engage citizens on supporting a plastic-bag ban, raise awareness and distribute educational materials for primary schools in Indonesia, noted the report.

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Following that, the sisters created Mountain Mamas, a work initiative to instruct women living in the mountains of Bali on how to fashion bags from donated and recycled materials, and sell them for additional income.

"As a 17-year-old changemaker, what has been super interesting and a learning curve for me has been learning how to deal with politicians," Mijsen told CNBC. "Dancing with politicians — it's three steps forward, two steps back, and then again and again. But I understand that we need to be doing it together."

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Mijsen’s impactful work has attracted the attention of local government leaders, and in turn, Gov. Made Mangku Pastika announced a commitment to make Bali plastic-free by 2018. While that goal has yet to be reached, Mijsen is undeterred in her mission, reported CNBC.

She has visited with the United Nations, and was an inspirational speaker at the recent International Monetary Fund and World Bank meetings, according to the report. During her gap year following high school graduation, she intends to get 1,000 Bali-based businesses to reduce the use of single-use plastic bags. In just three months, she already has commitments from more than 350 entities.