Bye Bye Plastic Bags Shanghai: GIN students take on plastic bags

BBPB members present at the Dulwich One Voice One City conference in October 2018.

BBPB members present at the Dulwich One Voice One City conference in October 2018.

This year, a group of passionate Global Issues Network (GIN) students have launched a chapter of Bye Bye Plastic Bags (BBPB), a youth-initiated NGO that began in Bali several years ago. The students are keen to raise awareness about plastic pollution, convince people to stop using plastic bags, and engage in clean-up efforts of our Jinqiao community. Here is an interview with lead student Hoony Kim, who also serves as a leader of the Concordia GIN group.

Q. When was the first time you contacted BBPB? What was the first impression of BBPB at the time? How did you join BBPB and become the head of the Shanghai area?

A: I got to know BBPB in ninth grade through our GIN club when we watched a TED Talk by Isabel and Melati Wjisen about how they founded BBPB on the island of Bali. The following year, I joined GIN and the Student Leadership Team for our GINAsia conference, which was held at our school. That was the first time I saw Isabel and Melati Wjisen in person because they came to be keynote speakers at our conference.

During their one-hour talk, they mentioned they currently do not have a team in Shanghai as the previous leader left to go to Europe. Right after the conference I told them I was interested in starting a team here.

During my summer break, I contacted BBPB’s HQ and gave them all the information they needed for a new team, and when I completed my interview and got my logo, BBPB Shanghai became official.

Hoony with Melati and Isabel (BBPB founders) at GINAsia 2018, January 2018.

Hoony with Melati and Isabel (BBPB founders) at GINAsia 2018, January 2018.

Q: When was the first time you learned about the dangers of plastic bags? What effect does this have on your future use of plastic bags?

A: Most people are aware of the fact that plastic bags are harmful to the environment; however, few people take action. I was no different. It took many years for me to realize how my actions were seriously harming the environment. There was no firsthand experience, no pain, but something just seemed to click in me when I heard Isabel & Melati speak on the TED Talk and the GIN ASIA Conference.  

As I got to know more about plastic bags, the more I felt bad about them. Other than being convenient at certain times, they serve no other purpose and have a devastating effect on the environment. After my eyes were opened to this problem, I saw more plastic bags on our sidewalks and in the Huangpu River.

Q: What is the current status of BBPB in Shanghai? What kind of goals do you hope to achieve in Shanghai?

A: The aim of BBPB, globally, is to ban the use of plastic bags in the community. As of now, BBPB Shanghai is new to the BBPB global team. Since we are new, we are focusing on making ourselves known to the community. We are trying to make partnerships with other environmental NGOs around and in Shanghai. For now, in our first months of operation, we have participated in a few fundraising and awareness events, planned multiple events for the year and are open to more.

Shanghai is a great city, and as someone who has lived here for over 10 years, I can see the problem. Plastic bags are no longer free in some shops, and the government has done a wonderful job refusing to import trash from other nations. Now, we need to work at the local level to clean up and educate people about the detrimental impacts a single-use plastic bag can make. Our hope and plan is to one day ban the use of plastic bags in Shanghai. 

Q: What are your thoughts about Melati and Isabel Wijsen, the founders of BBPB?

A: I met with the founders of BBPB Melati and Isabel for the first time last January at the GIN ASIA Conference here in Shanghai. My first response to them was pure respect. They were only 10 and 12 when they started this movement, and now it has grown so large (17 teams globally). I felt great admiration for them, as although they were still very young (high school students), they are making such a big difference in the world.

The BBPB Shanghai logo designed by Concordia students.

The BBPB Shanghai logo designed by Concordia students.

For more reading, check out: http://www.byebyeplasticbags.org/.

LeeAnne Lavender