Meet The Gen.T Honourees Fighting Plastic Pollution
The spike in environmental advocacy over the past decade has made people considerably more aware of the dangers of extensive plastic usage. Impacting everything from our own health to the health of our oceans, plastic’s inability to decompose naturally means that by 2050, there will be more plastic than fish in the sea.
While many of us have been doing our part by cutting out straws and being more careful about where we put our dollars, a select few have found particularly ingenious ways to fight plastic pollution.
From changing government policy to revamping the way plastic is recycled, meet six Gen.T honourees who are using their unique talents to fight plastic pollution around Asia.
Associate Director, Climate Policy Initiative and Executive Director, Indonesia Plastic Diet Movement
What is she doing to fight plastic pollution? She initiated the paid plastic bag policy enforced in supermarkets throughout Indonesia and works to reduce single-use plastic waste through social education, private sector collaborations and government policy advocacy. Her work has helped to ensure that more than 20 cities in Indonesia have banned plastic bags, helping to reduce plastic pollution in the ocean.
Why did she decide to start advocating for the environment? “I'm passionate about breathing clean air, drinking clean water and eating uncontaminated food. To me that should be sufficient motivation for anyone to become an environmentalist,” she told the World Bank.
What else you need to know Mafira graduated from Harvard Law School with a master’s degree.
Co-founder, Refill Station
What is she doing to fight plastic pollution? Along with two friends, she co-founded Thailand’s first non-packaged bulk store, Refill Station. The brand also offers eco-friendly workshops to educate people on how to live a low-waste lifestyle.
Why did she decide to start advocating for the environment? “I grew up with volunteer trips to plant trees in remote areas of the country, but then I came to question if this is really the way to save the environment. It was Lauren Singer’s TEDxTeen talk, Why I Live A Zero Waste Life, that inspired me toward the concept of Refill Station. After listening to her, I asked myself if it was truly possible to live with such a minimal amount of waste. Eventually, I realised that what Thailand needed to make the zero-waste dream possible were bulk stores,” she told Thailand Tatler.
What else you need to know Techachoochert is also a writer and communicator whose work has helped popularise a minimal waste lifestyle in Thailand.
Co-founder and CEO, HowBottle
What is she doing to fight plastic pollution? She founded fashion brand HowBottle, which recycles plastic bottles into sustainable wearables such as bags and jackets. She has received recognition from the 2019 Young Green Tech Global Top 20 and has exhibited her products at the 2018 Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity.
Why did she decide to start advocating for the environment? A diving trip in the Philippines sparked a lifelong love for the ocean.When she later saw photographs by Canadian artist Benjamin Von Wong depicting a mermaid swimming in an ocean of plastic bottles, she decided she wanted to do something about it.
What else you need to know Vice calculated that HowBottle’s shirts and bags over the past two-and-a-half years came from the equivalent of 750,000 recycled bottles.
Melati and Isabel Wijsen
Co-founders of Bye Bye Plastic Bag and Youthtopia
What are they doing to fight plastic pollution? Sister duo Melati and Isabel teamed up, at the age of 12 and 10 years old respectively, to start the social initiative Bye Bye Plastic Bags, which is now one of the biggest plastic pollution awareness movements in Asia. Spanning almost 30 locations worldwide, Bye Bye Plastic Bags educates and encourages young people to refuse single-use plastics.
Why did they decide to start advocating for the environment? The duo realised that considerable amounts of plastic were ending up in Bali’s natural ecosystems, including oceans, beaches and rivers.
What else you need to know The process of getting plastic bags banned in Bali took time and determination. When their initial bid to get the local government on board failed, they started a petition that amassed almost 100,000 signatures. When that also failed, they started a supervised hunger strike, which proved effective. Less than 24hours later, the governor signed a memorandum of understanding to ban plastic bags by January 2018.
Dominic Puwasawat Chakrabongse
Director, Precious Plastic Bangkok
What is he doing to fight plastic pollution? He runs the Bangkok arm of Precious Plastic, a global community plastic recycling project that enables waste to be shredded, melted, remoulded and repurposed.
Why did he decide to start advocating for the environment? A keen scuba diver and paddleboarder, he has seen first-hand the damaging effects of plastic pollution in the ocean.
What else you need to know Chakrabongse also engages with local organisations, holds workshops and seminars at schools, and leads Bangkok community clean-ups.