Yesterday we secured a key piece of technology – a ‘selladora’ (pronounced SESH-a-DOR-ah) or heat sealer, which will allow us to make the cardholders developed by the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) locally.  We originally wanted to find a two-sided sealer (heat on the top and bottom clamp), but had to settle for a one-sided sealer (heat on bottom only).  We can flip the product over to seal one side at a time.  It will work – and for 150 Argentinian pesos (just under $40US) including enough replacement teflon liners and resistors to last us about 6 months of production, the price was definitely right.  As a foot-note, a two-sided heat sealer like the one at RISD was available here as well but it was about 1200 Arg, so we decided the price was prohibitively high and took the simpler model.

Coming out of this mission with a machine in a cardboard box wasn’t just thrilling because of the long and winding trip we had to take out to Versailles (a part of Buenos Aires an hour-long subway and bus trip west of where we are living in San Telmo – sort of like the Amazing Race thrown into an engineering project!) but also because it was something tangibly falling into place; we have one more key piece of the puzzle now – and we have something more to offer the cartonero co-operatives.  We also realized the creative possibilities in having ‘playtime’ with the machine…

We also spoke via skype to Frederic Farre, a French businessman based in Turkey who is starting a company called Plastique Republique.  He’s aiming to make products out of pre-consumer waste (e.g. potato chip bags made at Frito Lay factories that are unsuitable for product, comprising some 5-7% of the total number of bags), and hire the Turkish equivalent of cartoneros to make the products.  He’s looking to partner with multi-national manufacturing companies (like Frito Lay) and let them promote the products as part of their Corporate Social Responsibility agenda, while still offering an environmental benefit through recycling, and a social benefit though involving waste pickers.  An interesting twist on the Waste for Life concept, and after the call we talked through what we are doing (and aren’t doing) and why.  Frederic was full of praise for our concept, and offered to help advise us on sales and marketing; and since none of the core team have any experience in that area, that support was definitely welcome!

So the theme of the week: victorious!  The pieces of the puzzle seem to be coming together, and even though there is lots more to do we are feeling good about how much we’ve already done. 

Tomorrow:  Market Research in San Telmo market.

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