An Afternoon at Cirendeu: Visiting with the Trash Pickers
In October, Indonesia’s Ministry of Environment and Forestry hosted ten countries for the International E-Waste Management Network (IEMN) in Jakarta. Ministers and environmental experts from countries such as Brazil, Chile, Columbia, Malaysia, The Philippines, Thailand, and the US gathered to share and explore successful models and approaches to managing electronic waste in their respective countries.
While electronic waste was first and foremost on their agenda, photographer Verena Radulovic from the US took time from her schedule to visit XSProject’s workshop, General Manager, Retno Hapsari, and some of the families and students living in the trash picker community.
After a tour of the workshop where our employees make upcycled products from consumer waste, they went to the Cirendeu open dump. Retno explained that the trash pickers are an informal sector, doing what Jakarta’s consumers don’t do; sort their trash into what can be recycled and what gets taken to the garbage dump. Retno explained that, many Indonesians don’t want non-biodegradable/non-recyclable products in their country, but they feel helpless to work with companies that provide consumer product packaging which can neither be returned or recycled.
As they were walking through the community in the early afternoon, they came upon a trash picker who had been manually sorting mounds of plastic bottles since 4:00 AM. Retno shared that, if homeowners just separated their plastics, the hours he spent sorting could be reduced and he could use the time to sort other waste (even e-waste), increase his productivity and care for his family.
Our guest learned that trash pickers, like all of us, lead complicated lives. Because of their lack of education and their poverty, their struggles are often defined by decisions like should they take a sick child to the doctor or pick trash to feed the family that day? As Verena Radulovic said, “They have a million odds stacked against them. We think we understand that they have a tough life. In fact, a trash picker’s life is really, really hard on so many levels.”
At XSProject, we continue to advocate for Jakarta’s half a million trash pickers with the government and conglomerates that continue to add to Jakarta’s pollution problems. Trash pickers cannot possibly keep up with the amount of waste Jakarta’s consumers throw away each day. At XSProject, we are encouraged by the Indonesian government’s efforts to clean up the environment, waterways, and air quality. Giving recycling jobs to trash pickers would help close the loop of poverty and reduce the amount of waste being deposited in Jakarta’s open garbage dumps.
If you like this story, please share with your friends and family. By creating awareness about the lives of all trash pickers, we can be their voice and the voice that changes this system.