In 2003, between 30,000 and 40,000 Argentineans made their livelihood collecting trash off the streets of Buenos Aires. Today well established cartonero (cardboard picking) collectives have successfully lobbied the municipal government to legalize their trash collection, enforce curbside source separation to aid recycling, and provide childcare for their members.
But the value of the recyclables the cartoneros collect is tied to the global commodities markets. In 2007 a number of collectives approached material scientists and engineers from Queens University, Ontario to develop value-added products from the trash they collected in an effort to secure a more reliable income.
The Rhode Island School of Design joined the Waste for Life (W4L) effort in 2009 to contribute design and production experience.
Image Credit: Eric Feinblatt, Waste for Life