According to the city’s sanitation agency, around 6,500 tons of garbage are produced by Jakarta’s 10 million inhabitants every day. While some is taken to the final dump site in Bantar Gebang, Bekasi, to be processed, a lot of it escapes to the rivers, inundating waterways.
When Gina Provo Kluit-Gonesh caught sight of this literal urban decay when she moved to Jakarta with her family in 2011 she decided to do something about it.
Originally from the Netherlands, Kluit-Gonesh, her husband and two children have worked in several countries around the world as her husband is a Dutch diplomat.
“[I was] roaming around the streets and Ciliwung [river], as well, when I saw all the garbage,” she said. “I thought I really had to do something about it.”
She then visited villages in Muara Angke and Muara Baru, North Jakarta, and discovered more shocking facts.
When the fishermen go out at night, they carry about 30-40 fishing lamps, which contain mercury, in their boats. When the lamps die after three or four months, the fishermen simply throw them into the sea.
Seeing all this waste inspired her to create new commodities from the used lamps.
Kluit-Gonesh wanted to involve the people of Jakarta in processing garbage and improve their livelihood at the same time. As a mother of two, Jakarta’s street kids are on the top of her mind.
“They actually have a lot of potential,” she said. “All they need is an opportunity [to learn] and to do something with their lives.”
A friend then introduced her to the Kampus Diakonia Modern foundation, a non-profit organization that focuses on rescuing and rehabilitating street kids in Jakarta and its surrounding areas.
Today KDM houses and supports 63 former street kids, between two and 19 years of age, in their facilities in Pondok Gede, Bekasi.
They also offer educational and entrepreneurship programs, like cooking, handicrafts and metalwork, preparing children over 16 years of age to be able to take care of themselves in the future.
When Kluit-Gonesh approached KDM with the idea of creating new products out of trash, the organization was enthusiastic.
“Kluit-Gonesh gave us an interesting proposal that would be good for both the kids and the environment,” KDM program manager Sotarduga Sinaga said.
In mid-2012, Kluit-Gonesh and KDM set up a social enterprise, Ffrash, (an acronym of fresh and trash), which was integrated into KDM’s entrepreneurship programs.
“Ffrash is when trash becomes fresh products,” Kluit-Gonesh explained.
Kids are taught to make decorative and furniture items from trash for the home, such as clocks, stools and vases.
Among the first customers for the vases, made of discarded wine bottles and lamps, was the InterContinental Jakarta MidPlaza who put the beautiful vases in their new restaurant “Rasa.”
KDM buys discarded plastic bottle-caps and wine bottles from the final dump site in Bantar Gebang and fishermen’s lamps from Muara Baru and Muara Angke.
“We asked the fishermen to bring [their dead lamps] to shore,” Kluit-Gonesh said. “And we pay them a bit of money for each lamp that they bring.”
The children are taught how to carefully open the lamps and take out the mercury fillings from inside. A company specializing in hazardous materials then comes to collect the mercury fillings.
“So, we don’t do anything hazardous in the workshop,” Kluit-Gonesh explained.
The products are priced between Rp 150,000 and Rp 550,000 ($14 and $51) with all proceeds from the sales allocated back into the program.
“Fifty percent of it, we save for them [street kids participating in the program],” Kluit-Gonesh said. “They’re going to need it when they’re about to start as entrepreneurs in a year or two.
“The other 50 percent goes into social projects, especially around the Bantar Gebang area. Because that’s the area where you see a lot of children just walking on the trash dumps. That’s the area that we really want to focus on.”
Ffrash products are also going international this year. The products will be introduced in the Dutch Design Week in Eindhoven this October.
When Amir, one of seven children in the project, heard his products would be introduced in the Netherlands, his eyes filled with tears. “I’m so happy and proud,” he said, with a shaky voice. “No words can really describe how I feel.”
“I believe if I really learn and work hard, I can become [a product designer],” Amir said. “And then, I want to help other kids are in the same position I was.”