The Jakarta Green Project: Street Children Leading the Recycling Revolution

By Morgan Pettersson.

Jakarta, the capital of the diverse archipelago of Indonesia is the epitome of a modern Asian city, a concrete jungle.

The city turns over 6000 tonnes of waste every single day, and the rubbish collectors cant keep up with demand.

In a city not known for its eco mind frame its not surprising that there are no formal recycling facilities here, everything is thrown out together.

The cities scavengers troll through the mountains of rubbish looking for plastic to sell.

While this is in theory recycling, it is dangerous to those having to pick through all sorts of waste to get to it.

As you walk the streets in some parts of the city the smell of rotting garbage is often over whelming, and a daily reminder that you are in a developing nation.

At the Kampus Diakonia Modern (KDM) school on the outskirts of Jakarta the ever growing pile of rubbish in their back yard started to effect the health of the students.

After a visiting volunteer asked them why they were not cleaning up the waste and recycling it, they became proactive and a year later had successfully eliminated the rubbish pile and the health problems.

The recyclable waste that has been collected from around Jakarta

Yet they did not want to stop there, and decided to see if they could set up a recycling service within the greater Jakarta area.

The Jakarta Green Project was born, with weekly collections of recyclable rubbish from the suburbs of Jakarta.

What is the most compelling aspect of schools story is that it is a very special school with very special students.

This school in Bekasi houses over 80 former street children, who have been rescued from the cruel life of the Jakarta streets.

Not only have these children now gained a future that does not include the crime and drug riddled life of the streets, but they are also leading the way in educating the city about recycling and eco living

The students work at recycling the waste that is brought into the Green Project, but they also learn about up cycling.

This craze has taken off around Europe and Australia and is the art of taking used and abandoned materials and objects and turning them into new things.

The children at the school work to make up cycled objects to sell which also generates revenue for them.

Some of the children make key chains and hairpins out of the plastic containers from washing liquid by cutting and folding them into the shape of butterfly’s and dragonfly’s.

Others use the metal from old soft drink cans to make key chains.

I was fortunate enough to be able to visit the school this week and walking through the school there is an over whelming sense of responsibility that you immediately feel.

The children who live here are the lucky ones who have been rescued; there are thousands more around the city who are facing the daily horrors of a life on the streets.

Yet these children are happy and upbeat about the future.

They are proud to show the eco initiatives that the school is slowly introducing, such as using old toilets as plant boxes, the organic vegetable farm and the construction of a eco building for the boys only using locally sourced materials and no wood.

The project whilst still small is growing as more and more people begin to learn about and care about recycling.

At least 60% of the waste in Jakarta could be recycled, as a lot of it is paper and plastic waste.

Up cycling, old toilets used as plant pots

By the time the scavengers at the rubbish tips get to the recyclable wastes it often can not be recycled as it is too broken or dirty.

The work that the Green Project does is inspirational, and goes to show that even in a city with little interest in the environment there are still people who care and want to make a difference.

Driving away from the school my heart was literally breaking for these children and their personal stories that I heard.

As much as you walk past the street children, beggars and all sorts of upsetting scenes daily in Jakarta, actually connecting with the children had an unprecedented effect on me.

Coming from Australia the lives that these children have lived is confronting, but a harsh reminder to be thankful for all that you have.

If these kids care about the environment and want to make a difference, then there really isn’t any excuse for anyone else is there?

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