How to turn trash into jobs, education, and laptop bags – Day with XS

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On July 20, I was able to visit XS Project, an organization turning trash into quality products, creating jobs, and providing educational scholarships.

I arrived to the office and met staff doing everything from sorting and cleaning loads of trash, unused car seat covers, and old marketing banners, to working on product development, and sewing the products. I sat down with one of the sewers, and he explained he had been with XS since 2005. What brought him here? He said a friend was working at XS. He used to make seat covers for airplanes, but now he can make products from recycled products. At the time, the team was putting together very cool laptop cases created from a combination of seat covers and discarded marketing banners.

I then met the head of product design and the head of finance.  The head of finance explained, XS is “not just cleaning the environment, but it is creating jobs for those who need it. XS is also providing education scholarships – it’s like 3-in-1.” The head of product design explained that he was first introduced to XS in college and thought it would be a great challenge to create products out of recycled material.

After meeting the staff and watching the process of turning recycled material into new goods, Retno and I went to visit the community where it all starts – the trash pickers. When we arrived the kids were so excited and everyone came out to say hi and play. Retno brought a box of pencils and crayons gathered from other schools, and the children all dove in to grab their handfuls. We stopped to speak with every family and to hear their current needs and issues. The families live on this land and work for a “lampak” which is the boss of that trash picker community.

I asked the kids what they studied and they all shouted out, “math, Bahasa (Indonesian), Ingrish (English), and Quran reading!” I then asked a few what they wanted to be when they grow up – and 2 young girls said a chef and teacher. Another young girl said a doctor. XS provides funding for the children’s schooling directly to the school and follows up with the school and teachers to see how their progress is. Retno encouraged the moms to tell their kids to go to class. In this community, the parents’ generation mostly did not attend school so this is a new opportunity for their children.

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