Let’s “UP-cycle” Garbage into Beautiful Products!
(KILUS Foundation, Philippines)
In 1997, Ms. Editha C. Santiago, an energetic woman, who was conscious of environmental issues and women’s empowerment, launched an organization called KILUS Foundation in Ugon, Pasig City, Philippines. Prior to the establishment of the foundation, she had been involved in the “clean and green” program with about 20 women in the community. The program was implemented by the local government, where her husband used to work. In the program, she headed an informal group of 20 women, and did cleaning in the community, collecting garbage, plastic bottles, cans, and old newspapers. As they were cleaning the community, she found that the people there became happier. One day, her husband said to her, “Why don’t you continue your group activities?” Then, she decided to organize the KILUS Foundation Multi-Purpose Cooperative.
In the beginning, she hit upon an idea of recycling juice packs. When she was in elementary school, she learned how to weave a mat with plant parts. One day, she came up with the idea of applying the weaving method to making bags out of juice packs. The KILUS members collect juice packs in the community, wash them thoroughly, and dry them completely. After that, they open the packs, cut them into narrow strips, and attach them together to make long strips which look like string. Female members take some bundles of strips back home, where they weave them into final products, such as bags and pouches.
They work at home on a piece-rate basis. For each product, 20% of the wholesale price is paid to the woman who made it. Some women who are working at the KILUS workshop are in charge of making bags or curtains with juice packs that are not cut into strips.
They make not only bags and curtains but also partitions, hats, cushions, chairs, accessories, photo frames, etc. All of these products are very attractive. In 2004, KILUS won an award in the Section of Recycled Products in the Asian Design Selection by the Japan Institute of Design Promotion. Since the designs are very nice and the quality is very high, I would like to regard their activity as “not just RE-cycling but UP-cycling.” A Japanese businessman offered a long-term exclusive contract to promote their products in Japan, and since then their products have been penetrating the Japanese market through this agent. This has led to exposure in the international market. The cooperative also joins international exhibits and trade fairs to promote their products. Now, the products of the cooperative are being exported to different countries in Asia, Europe, and the U.S.A.
The KILUS activities that began with a view to realize a clean environment in the community have contributed to improving the livelihoods of the members, bringing both economic and social empowerment to the women. Now they know not only how to make money but also how to express their opinions in the community. KILUS is an abbreviation of a phrase in the Tagalog language, which means, in English, “women united together to achieve progress in the community.” Wow! They have achieved their mission together!
For possible market tie-ups, you can reach the KILUS Foundation Multi-Purpose Cooperative at the following: