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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


Waste for Life in Buenos Aries

Caroline Baille, Eric Feinblatt and Erica Lee are currently in Buenos Aries, figuring out how to put some of the products into production. Erica is posting regular dispatches at the Main Waste for Life site.

Exhibition at Bioneers by the Bay

Designs from RISD’s Its In the Bag competition are being displayed at the U Mass Dartmouth College of Visual and Performing Arts Star Store for this year’s Bioneers by the Bay/Connecting for Change Conference.

Workshop @ A Better World by Design

A Better World by Desihgn '10

Waste for Life + RISD are hosting a workshop at the Better World by Design Conference to test instructions for making simple cardholders. Participants will make materials, cut and template pieces, and heat seal the final products.

It’s in the Bag Panel Discussion

Featuring Mariana Amatullo (Director, Designmatters@Art Center), Seth Goldenberg (formerly VP Bruce Mau Design), Julie Lasky (Editor Changeobserver), Lynne McCormack (Director, Department of Art, Tourism & Culture).

Thursday May 6, 6-8:30
Metcalf Auditorium, RISD Museum
Open to the Public

What is Waste for Life?

In 2003, a year after the collapse of the Argentine economy between 30,000 and 40,000 people made their living on the streets of Buenos Aires by collecting trash. Three years later, well established cartonero (trash picking) collectives had successfully lobbied the government to legalize their trash collection, enforce curbside source separation to aid recycling, and provide childcare for the collectives. But income for the cartoneros was still dependent on the commodity value of recyclables. At the request of a number of collectives in 2006, a team of engineers from Queens University Ontario began experimenting with plastic bags to create a more reliable source of income for the cartoneros. In 2007 they helped build two “Kingston Presses” in Buenos Aires that bond plastics and fiberous materials to create new composite sheet materials. The presses are currently being tested by the Center for Experimental Production at the University of Buenos Aires.

For more information visit