The first few days of our core team’s implementation visit have been incredibly busy, yet rewarding and so far successful. Having secured working keys to our apartment building and a guia (tiny book to help us navigate the labyrinthine Buenos Aires bus system) in the afternoon the day we arrived, we headed to the CEP (Centro Experimental de Produccion) at the University of Buenos Aires in the morning of day 2. Our associates there – including Carlos Levinton – greeted us like old friends.

The Hotpress was having its heating elements replaced, so we spent time with Eduardo Simonetti, the head of Industrial Design at the FADU (Facultad de Arcitectura, Diseno y Urbanismo). He showed us the designs that some of his students had developed from recycled materials during a recent design challenge. Many of them were made of chopped yogurt containers, which we learned had been donated to them by Danone as part of their Corporate Social Responsibility agenda. The containers packed into the students’ designs were actually from yogurt that had been returned from stores – and they are otherwise impossible to recycle.  This is not the first time we had considered the idea of using pre-consumer waste, but this one of the first times we had seen it done, so it was an exciting development to see.

We agreed to return to the CEP to get some input from them about the user-friendliness of the press and possibly look into getting the students to show their designs and demonstrate the Hotpress to the cartonero co-operatives; maybe even work with them on developing product design ideas.

Eduardo Simonetti mentioned that he had already given his class the challenge of applying their design skills to the cartoneros’ working situation. He said that though he wasn’t sure how the students would react to the assignment – disgust? discomfort? embarassment? – he found they were more than willing to lend a hand. Some spent hours with the cartoneros, collecting and sorting with them to learn what their lives are like.  He said he was both surprised and proud of their positive and heart-centred reaction. In Argentina this type of ‘service learning’ project is not nearly as common as in North America or the UK, so we were heartened to hear that Simonetti’s students had already dipped their toes in – and that we could likely build on that engagement and interest to get more UBA student involvement. Who knows what we might be able to do next?

As we waited for the bus back from the CEP to San Telmo, we reflected that the Hotpress really had been utilized for all sorts of experiments and projects – exactly the way we’d hoped it would originally. So since the first visit in 2007, it’s getting easier to see real progress…