Maria Schmukler of Reciclando Sueños wins the first grant of 2.000€ from Recyhub’s inaugural Innovation Fund to promote recycling ingenuity

Maria Schmukler is an Industrial Designer based in Uruguay. Since 2016, she has been actively involved in a recycling community in Argentina. She’s working on a PhD thesis about ethnographies of design in informal/popular economies. She’s part of a research team that collaborates with a cooperative called “Reciclando Sueños” (Recycling Dreams).

“Reciclando Sueños” is based in Buenos Aires. Having gained experience in collecting and recycling cardboard, they have expanded into plastics and other types of waste. The cooperative sources material that otherwise would be discarded, transform it, and find a market for the end products. They make impactful contribution to the circular economy by innovating at the bottom while helping create jobs. Also, they fabricate their own recycling tools. Maria’s involvement with the cooperative is focused on systematising the design methods that Reciclando Sueños employ when building specific recycling machinery.

Maria’s research team has an opportunity to meet and share knowledge with informal recyclers from Kenya. Can they effectively implement a two-way transfer of recycling knowledge and expertise between Argentina and Kenya? Recyhub will be contributing to answering this question by financially supporting Maria’s participation in the endeavor. The fieldwork is expected to take place in May, and results will be in before the end of 2019.

Why do we like this proposal?

Maria’s motivation is driven by the concept of “cardboard ingenuity”, an expression that explains how informal recyclers in Argentina (Cartoneros), have developed machines to improve their work. We have seen this ingenuity in other places and we believe it is aligned with the concept of “appropriate technology”, which originates bottom up.

The informal sector is key. Maria wants to legitimise the work and knowledge generated in informal contexts and we’re all in for this work at the fringes. It is open innovation at its best. The goal is to document the design process so as to facilitate and promote replication in other places.

We hope there can be synergies between “Reciclando Sueños” and “Precious Plastic”, which is also a project about open source recycling machines.

This proposal is not specifically about e-waste. However, we have decided to fund it anyway because, apart from belonging to the waste processing domain, it has all the elements we value.

Recyhub wishes Maria Schmukler and Reciclando Sueños the very best.