“This Product Is Made from GARBAGE”

December 2, 2009 by  
Filed under Blog, Community, Consumer Goods, Ecopreneurs, Front Page, Indonesia, Repurposing

The Kitchen Sink is made from discarded toothpaste tubes. It has a black lining and zipper pockets. Photo: Courtesy XSProject

The Kitchen Sink bag is made from discarded toothpaste tubes. It has a black lining and zipper pockets. Photo: Courtesy XSProject

At first glance, the title of this post might seem like a slam against an inferior product. That’s not the case at all. In fact, the title comes directly from a product insert I received with two sample items from XS Project.

When a representative for XSProject first contacted me, I was intrigued with the description of how their products are made — and why. The email I received said, “Don’t be surprised if you soon spy some hipster with an accessory you can’t take your eyes off of (something that makes you think, ‘Oh, what a piece of garbage’).”

Who could resist finding out more?

Re-Purposing Plastic Waste

So, I checked the XSProject website and found a variety of useful items. Some were so pretty, I’d proudly carry them even to the office; others were more funky, for casual fun. But that’s true for any product line. (Don’t get me started on high fashion; I’d a whole lot rather carry bags made from garbage than much of what’s described as “haute couture.”)

Each "Shopaholic" bag is a unique design, made from recycled billboard material. Photo: Courtesy XSProject

Each "Shopaholic" bag is a unique design, made from recycled billboard material. Photo: Courtesy XSProject

Here’s an abbreviated version of the story behind XSProject: Ann Wizer, an eco-friendly designer and visual artist living in the Philippines in the 1990s, had been using trash to design costumes. She also created accessories for those costumes using non-recyclable, post-consumer waste. In 2002, Wizer established XSProject, hiring trash pickers in Jakarta, Indonesia to collect, clean, and sew a variety of useful accessories.

But Wizer doesn’t source her re-purposed materials from city dumps. Instead, the trash collectors she employs go house to house, picking up empty plastic containers, such as detergent packaging and toothpaste tubes. Her workers also use billboard plastic and the upholstery from discarded furniture. They cut the plastic into strips, then sew the pieces together by machine, bringing to life Wizer’s creative designs.

Through XSProject, Wizer not only saves an amazing amount of plastic from premature burial in a landfill, she also provides a living wage for skilled workers and unskilled trash collectors alike.

Testing My Samples

Wizer’s website drew me in, and I responded with a request for samples. The company sent me two bags to review (at no cost, just so you know). For a few weeks now, I’ve been living with and using both a “Cut Bag Medium” and a “Face Lift” cosmetic bag.

The Cut Bag (in blue) and the Face Lift (yellow) are sturdy, functional, and charming. Photo: Joe Hennager

The Cut Bag (in blue) and the Face Lift (yellow) are sturdy, functional, and charming. Photo: Joe Hennager

Although I thought the bags were charming and useful, my initial reaction upon opening the shipping box was not entirely positive; the scent of detergents was strong.  I never buy scented anything, as I have asthma that is sometimes triggered by chemical odors. Besides, I simply prefer unscented products.

So I decided to let the products air out for a while before using them. After three weeks or so, I could still smell the detergent, but not quite as strongly. I finally washed the medium bag in the sink, which has helped a lot.

What most impressed me was the construction. The plastic that I initially thought might be as flimsy as a potato chip bag turned out to be much thicker. Pieces of each bag are cut into strips and rectangles, then doubled and carefully machine-sewn, making the resulting “fabric” strong and sturdy. Handles are reinforced. Seams of each bag are covered with trim. Some bags have sturdy zippers. Others have Velcro closures. These bags will last and last and last.

On a recent car trip, I carried all my larger cosmetics containers (hair supplies, contact lens supplies, blow dryer, etc.) in the Cut Bag (medium). The reinforced handles are secure enough to handle a lot of weight. And the bag held its shape despite a fairly heavy load. All my smaller items, foundation, mascara, toothbrush case, and comb, went into the Face Lift cosmetics bag — with room to spare. And, the Face Lift bag is lined with fabric — a nice touch.

There are plenty of other uses, too. A shopper could easily use the Cut Bag at the grocery store (how appropriate!), carry soda cans or wine bottles for recycling, or bring along handwork such as knitting.

The Face Lift bag works well for holding small items, like cosmetics. Photo: Joe Hennager

The Face Lift bag works well for holding small items, like cosmetics. Photo: Joe Hennager

The Face Lift bag would make a convenient art supply bag. It could also serve as a mini sewing kit. Or, drop in those TV remotes you keep misplacing; you’ll never have trouble spotting this brightly colored container.

I initially thought the Face Lift bag would be good for small baby toys; but since there’s no way of knowing for sure what chemicals were stored in the plastic containers used to make these bags, that may not be wise. My personal preference (and you’ll have your own take on this) is to use the XSProject containers for things that won’t end up in anyone’s mouth. If I do carry food items or children’s toys, I’ll make sure they don’t come into contact with the plastic.

Serving the Poor

Wizer’s story doesn’t stop at the manufacture and sales of XSProject products. She also has set up a foundation that serves the poor of Jakarta. The XSProject Foundation provides money for books and uniforms for the children living in the trashpickers’ community. It also has helped to provide “a water pump and a toilet facility through sales and fundraising.”

Make a statement for the environment whenever you hand out a business card. Photo: Courtesy XSProject

Make a statement for the environment whenever you hand out a business card. Photo: Courtesy XSProject

The bags are definitely “eye-catching,” as the email I received suggested. The bright colors and obvious recycled materials will catch attention. So, let them! Spread the word about helping reduce solid waste while also providing meaningful employment for some of the world’s most impoverished people.

Whether you’re shopping for gifts or for yourself, consider XSProject items. Some are small enough for stocking stuffers, while others are large enough to carry dishes for a holiday potluck. Giving an XSProject accessory is a great way to please your loved ones while helping people you’ll never meet have a better, healthier life. And if your family is donating to charity rather than buying presents this year, consider directing your donation to XSProject Foundation. Either way, you’ll be helping to make a big difference for a very small investment.

Julia Wasson

Blue Planet Green Living (Home Page)

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One Response to ““This Product Is Made from GARBAGE””

  1. “This Product Is Made from GARBAGE” | Eco-FamilyFun - Green Living Tips On Saving Money For The Family on December 3rd, 2009 6:40 am

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