Our return to Buenos Aires August/September 2014

We’re here in Buenos Aires, August and September 2014, after an absence of nearly 4 years. This will be an unusually short trip for us, but the brevity belies its importance, which is one of inquiry and discovery. Though we have tried to maintain contact with our colleagues on-the-ground, the flow of information has been sporadic, sometimes contradictory, never completely satisfying. We needed to see for ourselves what had become of our multiple interventions that began almost exactly 7 years ago in summer 2007.

How does one decide if an intervention has been useful, has had a net positive impact? One’s presence and activities over time can be measured against intended outputs and outcomes, but anyone who knows something about the type of work we do and has experience with the cohorts we work with, also knows that there are many soft sand traps, lurches, multiple shifting goalposts, and an endgame that, well, never really ends. Take the time to review our posts, which begin in June 2007 – the trajectory is all there. We entered into the turbulent maze of Buenos Aires waste armed with bad Spanish and a dose of hearsay about one or two of its players. After a six month immersion into what was an alternate world for us – on endless lost, long bus rides, lost, too, in language and in custom, but not in spirit or fervor or conviction – we brought together a small team of cartonero cooperatives, a university research, experimentation, and production unit, a national technology institute, and a specialized cooperative micro loan organization. Read the posts here http://wasteforlife.org/?p=51 and here http://wasteforlife.org/?p=52. We left before Christmas 2007 believing we had ‘handed over’ Waste for Life, not sure when we would return, but certain it was in good hands. This was premature.


We’ve been quiet on these pages (though not on the ground) for many months. Cooperativa Nueva Mente continues to manufacture and sell products with the hotpress and now conducts weekly training sessions for a youth group led by a local ceramics teacher. We keep in touch, but are no longer needed to support their projects….

Morón Eco-Parc Inauguration

Armed Robbery

We’ve previously written about the fragility of recycling cooperatives, always on the cusp of economic insolvency because of equipment breakdowns, or fires, or market fluctuations in the price of recyclables, or family illnesses, even sabotage – and the list goes on. We never, however, anticipated robbery as something to be concerned about. Until now, that…


This is the number of households in Morón, the Buenos Aires suburb, from which members of cooperativa Nueva Mente collect the weekly rubbish that they then separate, sort, and sell to recycling middlemen. Until about 1 month ago this figure described a daily routine, but then it occurred to us that it also represented a…

Ontario Centre for Engineering and Public Policy features Waste for Life

Erica Lee, engineer and WFL project manager in Buenos Aires for 5 1/2 months during 2010-2011, has written a wonderful article reflecting upon the experience for the Ontario Centre for Engineering and Public Policy. As a volunteer project manager for educational non-profit organization Waste for Life, Erica Lee oversaw the implementation of a simple manufacturing…

Water Catchment

While the Nueva Mente/Contenido Prensado group in Buenos Aires have been investigating new markets and designs for their trashbins – including domestic and industrial indoor models – Sarah Seitz, at Queens University, has been experimenting with building materials and has produced an entire water catchment system from waste vapor barrier plastic reinforced with cheese cloth….

Pictures from Nueva Mente

The last post pictured a ‘final prototype’ of the trashbins that the youth group at Cooperativa Nueva Menta are producing for the Municipality of Moròn. Clients being what they are, the design has been modified, and these are the actual bins being readied for delivery … after a green and white paint job that’s taking…

A Formidable Achievement

The final bin prototype (before a final coat of paint) commissioned by the Municipality of Moròn from Cooperativa Nueva Mente. 50 bins to be used around the new Reserva Natural de Municipio de Moròn. A formidable achievement indeed.

Exciting News from Nueva Mente

During the past month, Nueva Mente cooperative members ventured out of Morón and took their wares to two fairs or ferias: the Feria Puro Diseño and the Feria del Cooperativismo. This was a first attempt at selling the products (mostly wallets) they had manufactured using the hotpress, and every single product was sold, which is…

Waste for Life is a loosely joined network of scientists, engineers, educators, designers, and cooperatives working together to develop poverty-reducing solutions to specific ecological problems.