Back in Buenos Aires, and it’s summer time so everything moves at half-speed. The heat has eased up over the last few days and that has made it more comfortable to move around. Still, whatever the weather, the cartoneros are present, winding their way through the streets doing the essential work of recycling the city’s waste.
On Monday I visited the 19 de diciembre fabrica recuperada to see the press that they have built and will install at the Nueva Mente recycling co-operative in Moron. Last I saw it, a few weeks before Christmas, it was only a few stacks of carefully cut metal. This time, it’s a fully assembled grey-and-silver thing of beauty. It’s a hotpress! I know that in terms of the entirety of what we are trying to do, the technology is only part of the picture, and it’s important not to get too dazzled by the cool machine and ignore the other issues and challenges and complexities. Still, pretty exciting to see.
Registering even higher on the awesome-o-meter than seeing the press assembled, though, was the meeting that followed. In addition to Enrique and Salvador from the 19 de diciembre, me, Maria Virginia and Monica from Abuela Naturaleza (representing the Nueva Mente co-op), we had a few people from INTI (http://www.inti.gov.ar/), which is the national industrial institute of Argentina. As part of the services they provide to co-operatives and recovered factories, they came to give us some practical support and input on the building of the press.
David, the engineer from INTI, thought the press was a really simple and fantastic machine that had all the capabilities of commercial presses – which is exactly what we had set out to achieve. He gave a few straight-forward suggestions to help improve the safety of the press’ operation that Salvador readily accepted. Carlos, the environmental specialist from INTI, asked questions about the plastics we’d be melting. Both offered their help to further develop the process – Carlos says that he has instrumentation to measure off-gases – and even help us look for new markets, strategy and contacts for building other presses too.
Salvador led the meeting for the most part, explaining the functionality of the press and the various improvements that had been implemented to make this, the newest press, the best one! It was amazing to see the pride and ownership that he took as the machine builder, and everyone praised his knowledge and commitment. Even though he’s just a baby, they laughed. Salvador is 26.
As the conversation went on, Maria Virginia also took the group through the history and context of the project. ‘We started talking to Eric and Caroline 3 years ago’, she began, and proceeded to summarize the progress to this point, and her plans to extend this press as an educational tool for the youth of the co-operative to utilize as well.
Now, these might not sound like remarkable events. But after our long and sometimes tortured conversations about how to realize the vision of this project, Eric and Caroline and I were always conscious of the fact we couldn’t be pushing this upon our local network – it couldn’t be ‘our’ project. Standing amongst the group and hearing them speak excitedly, proudly, and matter-of-factly about the press, the waste recycling project and the next steps, it felt like it wasn’t.
So now we are getting down to the nitty-gritty press commissioning details. Where shall we put it? How shall we set up the work area? What other tools and markings and safeguards do we need? I will be going to the Nueva Mente co-operative today so we can evaluate all the requirements; we should be able to confirm the delivery and installation date of the new press by the end of this week.