street garbage



Our work in Argentina began as a set of hypothetical question to ourselves: would it be possible to share our specialised knowledge about waste plastics and fibres with people who depend upon waste to survive? And, if so, could this knowledge be transformative? Would it open up pathways toward more economic autonomy and security, reinforce the tenets of cooperativism, influence the relationship of garbage scavengers to the society from which they scavenged, alter the pejorative connotations that swirled around waste? These were heady questions, and this short video gives you a flavour of our early days looking for their answers.

We haven’t returned to Buenos Aires since 2014, seven years after launching our project, but we stay in touch. In fact, Ana Rapela, one of our key local collaborators, has been instrumental moving our newest project in Sri Lanka forward with her savvy ‘one-cut’ designs. Cooperativa Nueva Mente has opened Argentina’s first ‘learning space devoted to environmental promotion, sustainable social development, and cooperative work.’ Reciclando Sueños is now using the original hotpress, which was manufactured by Cooperativa de trabajo 19 de diciembre. And Carlos Levinton and Florencia Breyter are as active as ever helping cooperatives devise creative and educational applications of waste.

The caste of characters, the ups and downs are large, and it’s worth going through the entire history of our posts to understand the story, which you can do here. Our concluding post, reflections from Buenos Aires is here.

Looming large in this whole story is Virginia Pimentel from La Asociación Civil Abuela Naturaleza. She was our earliest contact and has been a steadfast activist for the rights of cartoneros and public education about waste.

Of course, behind it all, behind all of our work is the belief that broad and equal access to society’s resources are the foundations of a just society. The resources we had to share were scientific and technological. We like to think, in the words of Adam Guevara, that we have been able to socialize this knowledge. Something we will never stop doing.