Rivers in Indonesia are drowning in plastic pollution.
1.5 million single-use plastic diapers enter the Brantas River in East Java every single day, with much of that contaminated waste flowing out to the ocean.
To most people, this volume of plastic pollution would seem overwhelming. But for Celia Siura, it just makes her more determined.
Celia is COO of Common Seas Indonesia, a not-for-profit organisation based in the UK with local project teams around the world. Celia is leading an ambitious and exciting reusable diaper project, which was set up in 2020.
“The ocean is everything for me. I love to surf, swim and dive. I joined Common Seas because I want to protect the ocean. Alone, I can’t make enough of an impact. But with Common Seas, I really can.”
Helping local women make and sell reusable diapers in their communities.
Celia and her team train local women and the disadvantaged to make reusable cloth diapers using locally-sourced materials – providing a cost-effective alternative to single-use diapers. Any profits made from selling the diapers are reinvested, for example into raising awareness of the health issues surrounding plastic waste.
The project is a win-win-win, dramatically cutting plastic pollution while improving the health of babies and toddlers, creating jobs for the disadvantaged, and helping low-income families save money.
Celia is excited by the impact so far: “Over 1000 babies have used our diapers now. Families have said it cuts costs by 80% and reduces nappy rash by even more!”
The project already has some powerful partnerships, including with the Governor of East Java, Muslimat (a 40-million strong women’s network), the media, hospitals and several businesses.
Taking this solution to scale.
Every year, approximately 4.4 million babies are born in Indonesia. With over 13 million 0-to-3-year-olds in the country, Celia and her team must think big to truly address the issue of single-use diaper waste.
For Celia, success will come from two things. First, changing behaviours:
“In Indonesia, we have limited access to information about how harmful plastic is to human life and we didn’t grow up with access to waste management systems. So, if we want to fix the problem properly, we have to provide those systems and support people to use them – both through education and by providing incentives, like saving money and improving your baby’s health.”
The second lever for success is making sure this project grows the market for reusable diapers while becoming financially sustainable. Although Celia is realistic about the challenges ahead, she believes this project will make a big impact:
“This time last year, we had 30 people making diapers with us. Now we have over 100. Following this trajectory, by 2025, we will have sold 400,000 reusable diapers and prevented 584 million single-use diapers from entering local waterways. That’s the equivalent of 130,000 tons single-use diapers plastic waste.”