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Saving the Indonesia Environment Together with XSProject


The awareness and concern for the environment in Indonesia, in comparison to other countries, is still generally quite lacking.

Yet, as time goes by, there is more education and increasing awareness of our environment.

If there is one thing the pandemic has taught us, it is to love our planet and nature more. We need to nurture and care for it – doing so allows us to live healthier lives.

Many aspects of the environment have been destroyed by our lack of attention. One of the main concerns in Indonesia, especially in Jakarta, is the overflowing trash piles visible in various areas. Plastic waste and trash, in general, is something that will always be there. There are ways to cut them down to a bare minimum, based on the amount of information we now have regarding the types of wastes that can be segregated and recycled.


Plastic is one such waste that’s recyclable into various creative products. Many organizations have answered the call for the need to do something for the environment. They recycle plastic and many other types of waste into valuable products for others to consume. One such organization is XSProject – XS means excessive. XSProject is an initiative established in 2004 based on its concern for the environment, lack of awareness of disposing of garbage, and many trash pickers in Jakarta. XSProject mainly focuses on a trash picker community in the Cirendeu area.

As a non-profit organization, XSProject has been through a long-winded journey of ups and downs. Their goal has always been to encourage consumers to reduce waste and use products from the waste they have created themselves; the process is not always as quick and smooth as expected. When their initial journey began in 2004, their concerns for the environment and social problems, especially the trash pickers, were focused.

To help clean up garbage in Jakarta, XSProject started an initiative to buy garbage that the trash pickers don’t manage to sell with the hope of purchases becoming an additional income. The plastic packaging waste collected by the trash pickers is processed again through a sorting and washing process and turned into raw materials used to make new quality and functional products.

XSProject only uses waste that is not picked up by trash pickers when making recycled products. This approach doesn’t affect livelihoods as many types of waste can’t be recycled but can be reused, repurposed, and upcycled into new products.

With time and a continual focus on its vision and mission, the foundation gradually developed. They ultimately created a company that distributes products from recycling which then funded the campaign to reduce waste and create products from their waste. Retno Hapsari, Head of the Foundation, says, “Our products are used as a campaign tool and a means of reminding and educating people to refuse or reduce waste and to think of solutions for unprocessed waste.”

As people are starting to understand more about plastic as a cause of environmental damage, XSProject also educates trash pickers’ children, including children who are not trash pickers, regarding the importance of reducing waste and avoiding plastic. Educating them is a challenge because their parents collect plastic waste as part of their livelihood. In their daily life, they are surrounded by plastic as well as other garbage. On the one hand, they’re taught to reduce, but on the other hand, their parents must collect garbage to be sold and made into products. Therefore, the project mainly focuses on breaking the generational cycle of thinking that picking trash is the only option in life.

To continue their efforts to support the children, the organization in the pre-pandemic era constructed a facility for the children and families. After the construction process was completed, the pandemic occurred, which turned into a blessing for the children in providing them with learning support facilities. The children, including high school and college students studying remotely, can come to the facility to use the internet access to complete their assignments and do Zoom video calls for their school activities. Health check activities were made available at the facility for the children and their parents during the pandemic.
Throughout her journey at XSProject, what motivates Retno is seeing the progress and desire of the trash pickers’ children to change and get the highest education possible so that they can get out of the trash-picking generational cycle. Over time, the foundation has produced success stories of their children graduating not only from school but some have become university graduates.

In the beginning, it was very difficult to convince the parents of the importance of education for their children. Mothers in the community shared how they wanted to go to high school but couldn’t. This became a chance for their children to not end up with the same livelihood. They can also see the importance of education for their children by reaping the benefits of joining the foundation.

XSProject has been around for 15 years and we may wonder, have they made a significant impact? Retno says, “It all depends on money and resources. The waste problem is not only about receiving the money to be able to go to school because this is a social problem and a problem of habit – a mindset that takes a long time. Even though XSProject has existed for a long time now, trash pickers will be there because the garbage is still there. If the mindset is not changed, everything will be the same. We cannot get away from the trash we collect because we don’t have many choices.”

Hence, their impact is more indirect by changing the mindset through education as they want to make the trash pickers and their children comfortable and to live prosperous lives. For example, they are providing cleaner and better bathroom facilities for trash pickers to live healthier lives.

A moving story that Retno shared was about Pak Noto who was previously a trash picker at XSProject but due to the pandemic, he went back to his village. In his village, he started farming which made him happier, gave him a better income, and a more comfortable life. Thus, XSProject achieved their target by making an impact as his mindset had changed through their education to try something else for a better livelihood.

The foundation continues to strive to be one of the solutions for turning unwanted waste into functional and quality products and focusing on changing the lives of the trash pickers’ children to get a better future than their parents. Questioning how impactful any organization is, like the inspiring job XSProject is doing, is for all of us to consider. They cannot do it alone; we must all join together to take the step to change our mindset for a cleaner and better environment. We must, as Retno says,

“Care for the environment and care for the people.”

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