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Resources, Conservation and Recycling, Volume 55, Issue 11, Pages 973-978

Carolina Baillie, University of Western Australia.
Darko Matovic , Queen’s University
Thimothy Thamae, National University of Lesotho
Shania Vaja, Queen’s University


This paper highlights an innovative model of waste management combined with poverty reduction, which has been developed by the organisation Waste for Life (wasteforlife.org) – a network of academics, students, practitioners and on the ground cooperative partners in low income communities. The Waste for Life teams work with local cooperatives to create waste-based composites, which may be sold in local markets, thereby creating an income stream.

The application of this model to the context of cartoneros (waste picker) cooperatives in Buenos Aires, Argentina, reveals that viable products can be made from paper and plastic waste, with low-impact material preparation that circumvents the need for chemically intensive, polluting and mechanically degrading procedures, preserving recycled fibre integrity.

Tests on material samples indicate mechanical properties comparable to products made with more complex processing. The production model is based on the philosophy that not only the waste materials, but also the production equipment should be locally sourced and manufactured and products created to suit local markets. A simple reproducible model has been developed for the local manufacture of composites from waste, which can provide an income source for waste pickers as well as providing an innovative waste management solution.

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