After the 2001 economic crisis that hit Argentina, thousands of people that had lost their jobs were pressed to learn how to survive by collecting and selling urban rubbish to local recycling centers. These “independent urban recyclers” — now better known locally as “cartoneros” — have emerged over the last decade to hold a strong presence in Buenos Aires, even forming cooperatives set on developing trade skills and providing basic education to the community. One such organization is the Cooperativa Nuevamente at Morón. Thanks to an initiative kicked off by Waste For Life — who has been cultivating the idea since 2007 and recently donated a heat press machine — the people at the Cooperativa have learned the skills necessary to start producing their own eco-friendly products for sale. The products they produce in fact sell at a higher price than would have otherwise been received if they sold the material at its weight value.
Waste For Life is a not-for-profit organization started by two engineering researchers from Queens University (Canada) in 2006. The team travels the world to find out if they can setup a new scheme that could reduce waste and poverty that uses an open network of collaborators, ranging from scientists, engineers, educators, architects, artists and cooperatives.
In Buenos Aires, Cooperativa Nuevamente started their recycling through design program, by making wallets, tote bags and domestic products out of heat pressed plastic bags waste. The program is coordinated by product designers Ana Rapela and Angeles Estrada Vigil, Creative Director of MASEKOS, who both work closely with Erica Lee Engineer from Waste for Life.