Book Review: One Plastic Bag: Isatou Ceesay and the Recycling Women of The Gambia

Last updated on December 23, 2022.

One Plastic Bag: Isatou Ceesay book cover

There are inspirational and motivated women all over the world. Women who amaze us, withstand the negativity and overcome the obstacles she faces.

I discovered One Plastic Bag: Isatou Ceesay and the Recycling Women of the Gambia, by Miranda Paul, at my local library. Upon reading this book to my son, I was really impressed with this story. Check to see if your local library offers it!

After reading the book I wanted more information about Isatou Ceesay.

I felt that she is so inspirational that I should dedicate a whole post to her. She has been committed to upcycling plastic bags and reducing waste in The Gambia since the 1990s. The waste problem in The Gambia really bothered her. Plastic and trash were everywhere. The landscape was littered. People used plastic to make fires burn faster, but the toxins released in the fumes from burning plastic are unimaginable. She decided she would find a way to recycle or upcycle some of the plastic waste.

More than just recycling

But her story is not just about recycling and plastic. It’s also about empowering women and improving the standard of living! The book tells the story at a children’s level about how she had to work in secret in the beginning because it was illegal for women to work at the time, and people ridiculed her. But she began making recycled plastic bag purses. Isatou hired a few women to help and hired more as time went on, even establishing a women’s cooperative to craft and sell the items for income. The business kept growing and it helped the environment, the people, and the economy.

Isatou also helped co-found The Women’s Initiative Gambia whose mission is: “Women’s Initiative Gambia helps financially poor women in The Gambia to improve their skills and income so as to raise the standard of living of their families and their communities.” Today they have many projects beyond plastic bag recycling, including briquette making as a fuel source, gardening, tie-dye and batik, recycled paper bead making, food preservation, and many other projects.

Here’s a quick video highlighting Isatou Ceesay’s accomplishments:

“I think that when you abuse your environment, you abuse yourself.” -Isatou Ceesay

DIY Opportunity

And if you have too many plastic bags yourself and want to make a plastic bag crocheted purse? She’s got a how-to video! I’ll update this post if I try it. And if any of you try this, please message me or leave a comment below! I can’t wait to see what you’ve done!

“People thought I was too young and that women couldn’t be leaders. I took these things as challenges; they gave me more power. I didn’t call out the problems – I called out solutions.” -Isatou Ceesay

Well said. I think we should all have that attitude. Let’s be the change together!