Shortly after arriving in Buenos Aires in June 2007, we visited Carlos Perini at the Cooperativa de Trabajo Avellaneda Limitada (http://wasteforlife.org/?p=19). Technically, this is not a cartonero cooperative, but is instead a sort of low level middleman, buying recyclables off of cartoneros in the Dock Sur area, which they sort, process, and sell up the chain. At the time of this first visit, the Cooperativa was badly in need of funds to finish repairing one of their machines that chopped plastic into smaller pieces, which fetched a better price on the market. They, like so many of the other Cooperativas, were teetering, and with their sideline small furniture-making business, were the sole livelihood for 50 families. Caroline and Rhiannon (our translator) paid another visit  in November 2007, but not much had changed even though we had been told that they were going to ‘partner’ with UST (http://wasteforlife.org/?p=26) to get the chopping machine fixed. We made a third visit this time, a year and a half after our first. They had moved to a new location in Avellaneda and, as evidenced by the dust that had collected, the plastic processing machines had been idle for quite some time. Because of the precipitous fall in the value of recyclables, they had abandoned that side of their operations and were concentrating on the furniture-making business. They could now support only 25 families, and the ‘value added’ of making composite products from the plastic and cardboard was an even more tantalizing potential income producing stream.

In October 2007, we visited Renacer Lanzone (http://wasteforlife.org/?p=46) in a villa miseria across from the CEAMSE landfill, and Adam Guevara, it’s leader, accompanied Marcos Neumann to our final Waste-for-Life meeting at INTI exactly one year ago (http://wasteforlife.org/?p=51). Thanks to the help of some of the INTI scientists, Renacer Lanzone was in better financial shape than any of the other cooperatives we knew about.

Maria Virginia Pimentel has been an activist for years and runs a small recycling cooperative outside of BsAs called Abuela Naturaleza. We spent many hours with her last year, and she gave us a unique historical and political perspective on the cartonero ‘situation’.  She, too, was present at the final INTI gathering.

All of these groups were suffering, really suffering, due to the decline in the value of waste.

One of the main purposes of this vist was to get the hotpress moved away from INTI into Levinton’s CEP facilties. We invited Carlos Perini, Maria Virginia, Marcos Neumann, and Adam Guevara to come to the university for a demonstration so that they could see what they had been unable to see last year – the actual making of composites from plastic and paper, which were the raw building blocks of whatever product or products were eventually going to be produced. Their enthusiasm was palpable, and now the local work is in the hands of Carlos and his colleagues at UBA to begin a product development cycle along with Carlos, Maria Virginia, Adam, and Marcos.