Claudiaexpat tells us about a social project she discovered in Jakarta.
I recently visited an inspiring initiative in Jakarta, XS Project, which deals with trash. Anyone living in Jakarta knows that trash is a huge problem. What not everybody knows is that is it also a steady source of income for many people coming to the capital in search of better living conditions. Retno Hapsari, the General Manager of XS project, gave us a fascinating insight into a world that we can only glimpse from our car windows or in quick interactions with our maids when they come to clean our kitchens.
There is no organised trash collection by the city council in Jakarta. You see some municipal trucks from time to time, but they are few and do not follow a comprehensive collection plan. Everything is a bit chaotic. As a matter of fact, the important task of trash disposal is taken care of by informal collectors: they load heavy plastic bags of trash onto their shoulders or, if they are lucky and can afford one, onto their handcarts, and after carefully sorting it out, dump it on empty plots of land you can find scattered everywhere in Jakarta.
Carefully sorting it out is fundamental, because the collectors can sell plastic, papers, metal, and probably much more that we can’t even imagine. Anything recyclable is divided and organised, and then taken to the lapa, an affluent person who owns a small plot of empty land, and builds some shacks on it. Trash collectors coming from the countryside find a basic abode and can carry out their work. They leave early morning to collect and inspect the trash of wealthier neighbourhoods, and when they have gathered a reasonable amount of plastic or anything else recyclable, they sell it to the lapa. The lapa can either be an intermediary on the trash pyramid, who resells the products to another lapa at a higher price, or else he might go directly to the final receiver, the company who will use those materials in their manufacturing process.
XS project was founded by Ann Wizar, an American artist who lived in Japan, Indonesia and The Philippines. Its aim is to “raise awareness of environmental damage and poverty through education, innovative product design reusing consumer waste, and creating new income opportunities for the disadvantaged”. XS project buys plastic from the trash collectors at a fair price, and processes it in order to turn it into fancy products like bags, boxes, purses, wallets, luggage tags and much more. To this end they also accept corporate donations of waste materials such as used billboard materials, banners, upholstery, and so on. They then tap into their creativity to create fancy products. With only ten people working on it, they ensure the whole cycle of production: they buy or receive the recyclable materials, wash and dry them, produce the items and sell them to the public. What they earn from their sales funds scholarships for 60 children of trash collectors, who would not otherwise be able to afford school fees (http://www.xsproject-id.org/impact/2/Scholarship-Program). XS’s aim is to take the children up to graduation from Vocational Schools, so as to increase their chances of finding a job in the future.
You can visit XS Project any time in Jakarta. Get in touch with them (their contact details are on their website) and arrange a visit. You can see how the products are manufactured and buy some: they are colourful, cheerful, useful and help the community improve their standard of living.
Claudiaexpat (Claudia Landini)
Article proofread by Paola Fornari