Ann Wizer XS Project
By : Cynthia La Grou
Environmental activist / artist, Ann Wizer, is working with the medium of garbage as a way to build awareness concerning consumption and waste, environmental degradation and to encourage poverty reduction. Her elegant creations range from performance art, sculpture, functional furniture, light fixtures, costumes, and jewelry to her current collection of multi-purpose bags, laptop sleeves and laundry bins featured in her XS product line.

Ann finds no lack of materials and subject matter. When I met her at SOCAP last year she was wearing a necklace made from a smashed compact fluorescent spiral bulb and colorful plastic wires. I loved the highly stylized design and envisioned it being worn on the high fashion runways of the future. Always looking for ways to use more types of consumer waste in her product designs, you could see her wheels turning as she talked about the environmental hazards and durability of discarded PVC advertising billboards, now a material used in many of her XS products. I had the distinct impression that Ann was sitting on top of an endless mountain of trash, but even more so, on top of a potentially gargantuan industry that simply needed the creative guidance and visionary compassion that her unique sensibilities have to offer.

For over a decade, Ann has been collecting Asia's trash and turning it into fabulous art. Her latest ventures - the XS Project and the Invisible Institute - put Filipinos and Indonesians to work as they transform environmental waste into marketable accessories and products. Ann's business card contact information leads you to Jakarta, where she founded XS Project in 2004. After moving to Jakarta from the Philippines in 2002 Ann stayed at Hotel Kristal before moving to a new house. From her window, she could see trash pickers hard at work and she went down to start a conversation with them, asking them about their activities.

Using her previous experience working with recycled materials in her artwork, XS Project was started as an experiment to directly assist the trash picker communities to improve their living standards by involving them in the development of simple solutions to problems of unmanaged consumer waste. Eighty thousand tons of flexible plastic packaging are manufactured each year in Indonesia and its capital of Jakarta is home to an estimated 400,000 trash pickers, most of whom are undocumented workers surviving on a monthly income of about $35 per family.

By buying non-recyclable waste from trash pickers, Ann designed and made new products at small scale NGOs and cottage industries, creating new income opportunities for the very poor, mentally and physically challenged. Unlike the more valued, uniformed sanitation workers in other countries who enjoy decent salaries, insurance benefits and vacations, and who receive greater social recognition, this community of Indonesian trash pickers is largely "invisible." They eke out a living from the wasteful consumer habits and lack of environmental responsibility of others.

XS is one of the very first organizations in the world to make products using re-used plastic packaging pouches, thus starting a world-wide recycling trend. XS Project strives continually refine their production process and to support the trash picking community by purchasing trash at higher than average prices. They reinvest in the community through scholarships and educational programs. This includes purchasing books, stationery, uniforms and paying school fees to give the children of the trash picking communities a chance to be educated. XS hopes that this education will mean that these children will not have to sell trash, but will instead have a better life, different to that of their parents and grandparents.

Another goal of XS Project is to raise public awareness of the many thousands of people in poverty who live in the global economy of waste as well as to addresses the larger political issues surrounding environmental degradation and poverty.

As the amount of consumer waste that is polluting our world increases we need to react to this consumerism. We are consuming our planet in an irreversible manner. The average use of a single use drink container is only 4 seconds, after which it may sit in a landfill forever. Products are the source of all environmental problems. By making greener lifestyle decisions, actively consuming less and re-using more of what we have, we can still reduce the impact of excessive consumerism in our world.

Unintentional side effects of manufacturing, use and disposal:

● Products (i.e. your cell phone) look harmless but there are many invisible "hidden costs" - pollution, deforestation, species loss, global warming are all by-products of the industries that bring us food, transport, shelter, clothing and goods.
● "Hidden costs" are environmental impacts from manufacturing and disposal toxic vapors and gases emitted by factories, pesticides, radiation.
● 30 tons of waste are produced for every 1 ton of product manufacturing.
● 98% of all products are thrown away within 6 months of purchase.
● Only 1 in 10,000 products is designed with environmental care in mind.

(Source - The Total Beauty of SUSTAINABLE PRODUCTS by Edwin Datschefski Rotovision 2001)
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