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Trash-to-purses project pays Filipinos to fend off floods

Clogged drain or fabric store, which do you see? Photo:<a href="">Sustainable Sanitation (Flickr)</a>
Clogged drain or fabric store, which do you see? Photo:Sustainable Sanitation (Flickr)

One man’s trash is another’s flood prevention. An entrepreneur and environmentalist fights flooding in the Philippines by transforming trash into fashion.

Flooding is a constant source of devastation for many Southeast Asian countries, including the typhoon-laden Philippines. The problems created by seasonal downpours have been exacerbated by the the increased use of plastic packaging, which clogs drainage and sewer systems. According to the Metro Manila Development Authority, each year, several million tons of plastic and styrofoam are removed from the cities’ sewers and drainage systems. One man hopes to stem the tide by showing communities that refuse collection can be a source of profit.

Joseph Castillo of Joe Green Project is teaching communities to put their trash to work. Individuals collect waste and then use simple tools, like an iron and sewing machine, to create wallets, purses and bags. These items can be kept for personal use or sold in local or even international markets (Joe posts new designs and takes orders from his facebook page). More concerned with advocacy than business acumen, Castillo freely instructs interested parties how to craft the recycled items. Already a number of local foundations, schools, communities and a jail have learned the system and are able to produce and market their own items. If the project can spread its success around the country it will accomplish an impressive trifecta: flood reduction, increased environmental awareness, and income creation for vulnerable populations. Not bad for a little elbow grease and litter.

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