#GivingTuesday: How XSProject Upcycles Trash In Jakarta Into Bags

Let’s talk trash! XSProject transforms consumer and corporate waste into usable products with creative flare.

XSProject was founded back in 2004 by an artist who cared deeply about the environment. She used trash as a medium for her installations concerning the impact garbage has on the environment and our communities. When she went to Jakarta, Indonesia and saw trash covering the streets, she knew it was time to start an organization that would eradicate this issue. Today, the organization is run by Retno Hapsari, a bubbly outgoing woman with a passion for turning waste into products with taste.

“In Jakarta, there are a lot of people in poverty walking up and down the street picking up trash,” Hapsari said. “Sometimes men, even sometimes women and children.”

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After seeing this, XSProject sought after trash-pickers who sort through garbage and sell it. They sell whatever they can collect to a middleman who then brings that garbage into the recycling system. This becomes their livelihood.

XSProject Indonesia
Saminah started working as a Washer. Her husband who was a trash collector brought her to our office, because she wanted to earn extra income to help her husband. Saminah’s job was washing waste plastic pouches before XSProject turned them into products. Saminah is now an experienced QC. Her husband has stopped working as a trash collector and has a better job. With both income, there were able to purchase a home in their village for their retirement. Saminah said: “One of the reasons I like working at this organization is because my daughter Fifi can continue her education as high as she wants. She is now in college and I am looking forward to her graduation day.” FACEBOOK XSProject Indonesia

“When we approached the trash-pickers, we asked them what they collected. As it turns out they collect everything you can think of, whatever they find in the street,” Hapsari said. “However, the one product they don’t collect is plastic pouches. They have no way of getting them to sell.”

Jakarta does not have a system for dealing with these kinds and amounts of trash. This is why XSProject made it a point to team up with trash pickers, encouraging them to collect trash in large amounts, even items they usually would not pay any mind to. This would aid in cleaning Jakarta while also providing additional income. This was not an easy task, however, as simply buying garbage off of people in poverty was not going to give them a better life.

PHOTO XS Project

“Children ages 8-10 would come to help their parents pick trash. The more trash they find and sell, the more money they make. It’s as simple as that,” Hapsari said. “We decided that to make a change, we must provide something the parents cannot provide: education.”

The XSProject team had the goal of breaking this generational cycle of thinking that picking trash is the only option for people in poverty. They approached the families and told them they would help send their children to school. This meant the children would need to have a break from trash picking, however, they would receive an education; something their parents did not get to have.

FACEBOOK XSProject Indonesia

“We started by sending them to primary school but every time people asked me ‘Retno, have you changed their lives?,” the answer was ‘not yet,’ so that meant providing primary school was not enough. Then we sent them to middle school. Their lives were not changed yet. We then sent them to vocational school or high school. Now, we have 13 college students who came from living at the top of a dump site. That’s what we do.”

It is a tricky situation, as they want the waste management situation in Jakarta to improve, however, if this happens, the uneducated will be out of their jobs. This is why it is so important for XSProject to educate young children, so they are able to obtain a career in the future that will allow their family and community to thrive and hopefully be trash-free.

XSProject creates beautiful, unique products from upcycled trash.
XSProject creates beautiful, unique products from upcycled trash. FACEBOOK XSProject Indonesia

While enrolling children in school, XSProject continues to buy waste from trash pickers that are made into unique products and sold on their website. When the educated children finally graduate from college, they are able to work for their company, which makes this a sustainable solution to the education and garbage issues in Jakarta.

“People see the quality and the impact of our products. We purchase the trash they could not previously sell (plastic pouches) and we turn it into something functional like a tote bag.”

Less garbage buried in landfills is good for the environment.
Less garbage buried in landfills is good for the environment. FACEBOOK XSProject Indonesia

Today, almost 20 years later, XSProject has many functional products made of waste listed on their site such as laptop covers, aprons, coasters, luggage tags and more. The work they do is not only helping families in poverty, but it is helping the environment as well. They are encouraging Jakarta to be cleaner and greener, one product at a time.

Alyssa Spagna

Contributing Editor

Alyssa is a spunky, fun-loving traveler who has an infatuation with theme parks! While she loves her tropical beach vacations, nothing compares to the thrill of a rollercoaster drop or a character meet and greet. Standing at only 4’9”, Alyssa lives by the motto “dynamite comes in small packages.”

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