October 13, 2007 :
: by cbaillie |

It seems to me that the conversations we are having now with cooperatives about our project are more detailed and to the point than they were when we arrived. Of course, you will say, because you now know more about what you are doing. But in fact, I haven’t noticed that we present the project in any different manner, but more so that the cooperative members ask much more sophisticated and relevant questions now, as if it’s the fourth time we have been to see them, rather than the first. It’s as if the idea is in the air… Some of the details that have been discussed recently are absolutely key to the success of the work within any of the groups we hope to work with. Our intern Nils is creating a cost analysis template and many of the factors we have been researching for this were brought up in recent meetings, such as ‘how much electricity would the press use?’ ‘what could we sell the product for?’ ‘How long will a ceiling tile last?’ ‘Who would buy it?’. These conversations took place in our meetings today and yesterday in Cooperativa El Alamo and Reciclando Suenos, both very successful and active cooperatives working in the recycling business. Both groups have an incredible spirit and believe strongly that they are providing a service just as the garbage trucks are, so they see no reason why the trucking companies are paid huge sums of money and the cooperatives are paid nothing or small subsidies. Marcelo from Reciclando Suenos had a head on fight with the government about this at the recent conference we attended on recycling.

Reciclando Suenos is the first coop we have seen which has actually moved on to manufacturing from collecting, sorting and selling. They have an actual product – a painting sponge, the handle and backbone of which is made from recycled plastic. They chop, clean, dry and injection mould the plastic, and then assemble the parts, selling them for 1.10 pesos each to a local wholesaler. We were extremely impressed with their team, who were supported by weekly workshops run by local PhD anthropology students. After a long cold wait in a drafty warehouse full of bags of plastic, we were privileged to experience one of these workshops. It seemed to us to be a cross between a recovered workers assembly (although we have only heard about these) and a cooperative development workshop. Members were asked to discuss certain issues and topics, including a series of case studies, which led onto some incredible discussions such as ‘how should we distribute the benefits gained when someone is given an extra item by the neighbours such as a good pair of socks?’ Sebastian and Maria, who have been working with this cooperative for over three years, facilitated the discussions brilliantly.

Cooperativa El Alamo is to become one of the city’s Green points. We were shown around the future premises, currently damp and mosquito-ridden, and proudly told which room would be the sorting and which the compressing area. We were introduced to both groups by Gonzalo Roque of Avina foundation who took us to El Alamo today.