Indonesian women in Ciparay and Pangalengan, two small villages located in West Java, today have new careers as seamstresses and marketers for a textile manufacturing company. By theirs is no ordinary garment factory. Unlike others, it uses waste patchwork from other textile companies to make dresses and bags.
This creative idea, aimed at reducing waste in the textile industry and creating sustainable occupations for women, did not come from a senior textile industry executive, but from a fourth-year chemical engineering student at Bandung Institute of Technology.
Vincentius Dito Krista Holanda is among the growing number of young people in Indonesia and across Asia who want to do something about the way their fast-developing countries use natural resources.
University students from nine Asian countries recently participated in the Bayer Young Environmental Envoys field trip in Germany. Each came up with projects that were motivated by the different environmental problems in their countries.
Mr Holanda said that Indonesia was in a development phase, waste from industrial activities is increasing. In his home in West Java, he sees lots of waste from textile factories, which are not managed properly. The waste is burned, emitting carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. The waste textiles, he decided, could be turned into money.
A growing number of young people are eager to apply their knowledge about the environment in ventures such as soil and water conservation.
He started collecting waste patchwork from the textile factories, formed a company — Ganesha Fashion — in May of this year, and hired women in two villages to sew and market the products, which will be available commercially by the end of this month. He and his team of five people have proposed this project to the consulting group Accenture, which has a global fund to support social projects and provide financial advice.
Waste patchwork can be sewed together into new dresses. Up to 100 kilogrammes of waste can be made into 100 to 150 new apparel items per month. The work is also creating incomes of between 400,000 and 600,000 rupiah (1,280 to 1,920 baht) per month for local women.
Most of the women in the agricultural villages of Ciparay and Pangalengan have no jobs outside the home. Villagers grow cassava but have to cut down trees to create plantation areas.
“This is not the sustainable way to grow a business,” Mr Holanda says of the waste he sees around him. “I have my inspiration to reduce waste. And as I will be a chemical engineer in the near future, I would like to own a textile factory using material from waste. As a result, this will create sustainable jobs. People may not have to chop down trees.”
His company now employs 20 women, eight for sewing and the rest for marketing. He plans to have 150 workers within two years and expand the business to other villages. He is hopeful that once he can expand the business more, he will help reduce waste and carbon emissions from burning waste, and create sustainable jobs for Indonesian people.
Indonesian women sew garments from patchwork discarded by textile companies, helping to reduce waste and create new jobs.
While deforestation and waste are the main environmental problems in Indonesia, clean water supply and sanitation remain issues in India waiting for solutions.
Gaurav Maheshwari, a fourth-year chemical engineering student in the Indian Institute of Technology, said water discharged into rivers is not treated properly, resulting in pollution that represents a threat to health and quality of life. Substandard water treatment is rampant in less-populated areas as the cost is quite high when compared with urban areas. His solution would be to treat water naturally and in a sustainable way.
Mr Maheshwari started growing algae in different conditions of waste water to clean the water. During the experiment, nitrogen was reduced. He also got biomass as an end product that can be used to generate electricity. He did his research in college, but plans to propose the idea to the regional government.
“Hygiene and sanitation are always problems for India, even in New Delhi,” he said. “After I did the experiment, I found that the solution would work. The good thing is that I not only treat the water naturally, but I also get biomass for electricity generation. I can show Indian people how to do it by themselves.”
Water scarcity is also a concern for Singapore. The only ways for the city-state to get water are from rain, desalination and purchases from Malaysia. Singapore has two contracts left to purchase water from Malaysia, which will expire in 2061, so it has to do something if it does not want to extend the contracts.
Law Yu Hui, a student in environmental and water engineering from Ngee Ann Polytechnic, devised a “Floating Wetlands” project to help clean up contaminated water. She started to do her research in a small pond in a Chinese garden, where the water was contaminated by nitrates and phosphates washed from the soil.
She applied natural treatment by using different plants to absorb contaminants, a method called phytoremediation. She began by testing the quality of water in the pond to see what contaminants it contained. Then she created a platform made from bamboo in the garden. This is also a way to reduce bamboo waste, which is normally burned, emitting pollutants.
Ms Law then put soil into the platform in order to grow the plants that can absorb contaminants. An unexpected bonus, she found, was better environmental conditions overall, as dragonflies that she has never seen before are now found in the area, as well as baby birds.
“The cost for a pond of one square metre is around S$27. It’s much cheaper than the conventional method, which is to use chemicals to clean the water,” she said.
Ms Law plans to enlarge her study into the larger-scale ponds. She is starting with ponds in schools so that she can teach students this simple method, which is explained in her blog at http://ewtfloatingwetlands.wordpress.com/.
“I want to spread my method as much as possible. I want the communities and students to realise this responsibility in taking care of our environment.”
Environmental impact in Asia is inevitable during economic development. According to the fifth edition of the Global Environmental Outlook (GEO-5), which was launched on the eve of the Rio+20 summit in June this year, Asia Pacific is expected to contribute approximately 45% of all carbon emissions worldwide by 2030. The emissions are mainly from the industrial activities and transport.
Yangsiyu Lu, third-year student from Shanghai Jiaotong University in China, said the main problem in her country currently was the conflict between economic development and environmental preservation. The country needs industrial activity, but on the other hand, it has to protect its environment. Too many people still see the two as mutually exclusive.
However, she believes that the Chinese government is trying to develop the country in a sustainable way under the 12th five-year development plan. The process may go slowly during the transitional period, but it will change the structure of China’s industrial sector, she said.
About the author
- Writer: Nalin Viboonchart