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Urban Poverty

Discarded 2 Desired | Empowering trash collectors through bags

By Dian Hasan | November 3, 2010

What separates us from designers or anyone with a good eye for design, is their ability to look beyond the obvious and turn a daily object into a work of art! And when you combine this knack with an eco-consciousness, the result is amazing. Creations that soar as far as the imagination.

What others consider as trash, waste, garbage or simply junk, they see as a palette of design potential!

Here’s a look at what happens to trash in Jakarta, Indonesia, and how it’s transformed functional bags.

XS Project has such brilliant idea to help reduce waste and overcome poverty in Jakarta. They buy unused plastics from the trash pickers, develop the plastics into bags, wallets, trash bins, lunch boxes, etc. More information on their website and their catalog. I bought the large handbag and it’s so useful, long lasting and unique. I use it for when we go to the beach or the swimming pool. It’s great cause you could just wipe it if it ever gets wet. The one thing I remember when I first bought the bag was the wonderful smell! Because the plastics are mostly from detergents or floor cleaners.

Inspiration: Jakarta Daily Photo Blog

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Jakarta and Plastic Bag Waste ~ a nightmarish pairing!

Plastic bags (yes, those ubiquitous items we use in our daily lives) are widely known to be among the most destructive to the environment. I’m of course talking about the non-biodegradable kind.

Jakarta, capital of the world’s fourth most populous nation is grappling with plastic waste problem like never before. As the economy steams ahead – now for the first time recognized by the global finance and business communities as the “new bright star” of economic growth and resilience.

As the world’s largest archipelago, Indonesia is blessed with abundant natural resources, a large domestic market (220 million potential consumers), a stable government, and one of the world’s best-performing Stock Markets, Indonesia has emerged out of the recent global recession faster than expected. It is a solid foundation that is expected to see Indonesia’s continued growth, for which the country is now identified as part of Chindonesia(China, India and Indonesia), Asia’s next growth triangle.

A scavenger collecting plastic bags at the Bantar Gebang dump in Bekasi. Every year, Indonesians generate about 5.4 million tons of plastic waste that can take hundreds of years to biodegrade. (EPA Photo/Weda)

Naturally all the new consumers are bringing with them waste, a growing problem across the country’s urban areas. The most dire is Jakarta (greater metro area population: approx 20 million), among the world’s largest cities, which faces not only a waste management challenge, but also its nightmarish traffic, considered by many to be the world’s worst! Many foreign business visitors have mocked it for: “There is no traffic in Jakarta, because it’s just a giant parking lot! Everything is at a standstill”.

Jakarta’s waste problem as reported in Jakarta Globe, and the effort of a small group of environmentalists who see a solution: (more…)


From Manila Trash to London Fashion Chic

By Dian Hasan | September 14, 2010

Here’s proof that not only is the green movement here to stay, but it’s impact reverberates from a desolate place to a glamorous one, where the plight of the downtrodden can be brought to light. Such is the terrible circumstance that afflicts millions of urban trash scavengers that barely scrape a living collecting trash in city dumps.

This story in Jakarta Globe illustrates it perfectly:

At a warehouse near Manila’s infamous Smokey Mountain dump, slum-dwellers working for a British-led charity are turning rubbish into fashion items that are proving a hit in top-end London shops.

Under a dim fluorescent lamp, amid the constant humming of sewing machines, about 20 women cut pieces of cloth and other materials found in the garbage to make teddy bears.

Others are busy putting finishing touches to handbags and purses made from discarded toothpaste tubes, while glossy magazines are turned into colorful bracelets.

“This bag costs about £100 [US$166] or more in London,” said Jane Walker, a former publishing executive from Southampton, who gave up her lavish lifestyle in 1996 to set up the Philippine Christian Foundation in Manila after seeing the plight of the poor there.

Walker said about 200 bags were currently being shipped to boutiques in London and the foundation was unable to meet demand.

“I had to turn down three shops in London ordering our products because we keep running out.”

Walker said a deal to supply a major luxury chain was also in the works, while negotiations were underway with an American firm to produce shoes and slippers using discarded car tires.

Known in the local press as Manila’s “angel of the dumps” for her work among the scavengers of Smokey Mountain, the 45-year-old single mother’s tireless efforts have helped entire families rise above crushing poverty.

Last year, she was made a Member of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth II in honor of her work.

Relying mainly on corporate donations, the nonprofit foundation provides livelihood projects, health services and free education to children of families living on the dump site.

(more…)