Cartoneros are poor trash collectors living in Buenos Aires, Argentina, who make a living collecting plastic bags and other recyclable commodities. The Waste for Life project is an initiative taking place to improve the lives of the Cartoneros. The main objective of the Waste for Life studio at RISD was to fabricate a hot press to turn the plastic bags collected by the Cartoneros in to a sheet material, then develop products based on that material which hopefully could be returned to the Cartoneros to manufacture and make a profit.

The original concept was simply to press layers of plastic bags, but thorough exploration yielded new solutions. By pressing an additional fibrous material, such as cheesecloth, into the plastic, new strength and functionality was achieved. Rain boots as the product were selected due to their material appropriateness and their utilitarian, purely functional nature. The plastic material is inherently waterproof and the necessary thickness of the material required for the rain boots is very minimal. The final design is extremely economical and easily produced.


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