RUS Córdoba is one of the interventions included within the project RUS Basurama. RUS is a chained series of specific projects focused on working with waste in Latin America, performed in ten Latin American cities. These projects are carried out by Basurama and other cultural and social hosts’ agents and culminate in an urban action performed in a public
space. All cities where there have been these interventions share a number of conflicts, such as, for example, unequal access to resources and precarious waste management.
Cordoba RUS main aim is to promote the labour of a local workgroup [Tejedoras Urbana], which produce their work from a local controversial trash [PET bottles], through the creation of an urban landscape.
LOCATION AND DEMOGRAPHICS
As said previously, RUS Córdoba is a project part of Basurama’s RUS Project in Latin America. It is located in the city of
The city of Córdoba had a population of 1.330.023 inhabitants by the year 2010, 30% of the total population live below poverty standards according to last studies. It is the second most populated city of Argentina and the biggest one, with a dimension of 576 km². It has a long tradition in basketry making with palm leaves originated in Sierra de Córdoba.
Another crucial context occurring in Cordoba is the daily amount of “formal” trash collected; it reaches more than 1000 Tm, among which 450.000 PET bottles can be found.
The mainly population involved are the unemployed adult citizens, in which the Cirujas or the housewives living on the so called villas miseria, are included. These people are usually householders, living on extreme economic conditions.
Cirujas is the local name given to the people – mainly men- which classify trash or collect cardboard on an illegally way. This collective is the responsible for the collection of the raw material of the intervention – PET bottles.
The housewives are the population more involved in the project, being the ones that manufacture the final product of the intervention, they call themselves Tejedoras Urbanas, their role is to stitch the PET yarn in order to produce baskets or some other elements that can later be sold.
The project aims to involve all the collectives, not only the district neighbours but also the rest of Cordoba citizens – from kids to senior citizens – both in the manufacturing of the intervention and the contribution of the raw material – PET bottles.
SOCIAL PROBLEMATICS AND EXISTING CONTROVERSIES
The major success of the intervention is the detection of two controversies existing in the city.
Due to the inequality in access to resources (30% of the total population lives below poverty standards) and precarious waste management found in this city a very rich informal sector for trash collection is originated, the Cirujas.
Because of the low price that PET has reached, it is almost no longer profitable sale sell it as raw material and it is very likely that this highly recyclable material – 100% recyclable – calls the risk of not being considered as a priority for “casual” recycling. And happens to end its recycling cycle mixed up with some other non-recyclable waste.
The need of some families of an extra salary to make it through the month, being the housewives in many cases the only householders of the family economy. Mixing innovation and tradition the group Quinea Arquitectura is since 2007 holding a project in order to form some of these housewives into the manufacture of PET plastic yarn fabric. So they can develop a job from their homes that will provide them an augmentation of the month salary. Tejedoras Urbanas, as this group self-calls, has the opportunity to be professionally engaged in the manufacture of baskets and PET yarn baskets, generating a new activity to support these families with limited resources. But this collective has not reached a market big enough to satisfy its needs.
During the development of the process some social and cultural host agents had been involved such as; D-forma, a collective of young designers that had helped in the construction of the canopy of the intervention, Noé Marcial, an industrial designer and reuse researcheror Demolición/Construcción, another collective that handles around the concepts of “demolition” and “construction”, the presence of this agents is crucial for the impulse of Tejedoras Urbanas on the market. Quinua Arquitectura is the main promoter, starter and co-organizer of the project Tejedoras Urbanas, their holders are DiegoDragotto y Pablo Capitanelli.
Tejedoras Urbanas is obviously the main agent involved, acting as the seamstress of PET bottle yarn, being involved in the event the ones belonging to Villa Urquiza and Ciudad Juan Pablo II.
Some local industries such as Fiat or Drubling performed also a role as providers of PET materials for the intervention. PET bottles and bags were also the provided by the Cirujas collective and by all the people involved in the event. It creates therefore a collaboration network in the whole city.
HISTORIOGRAPHY AND PHASES
On September 2006 the price of the PET plastic starts to devaluate, and it’s no more worth collecting it on an informal way.
Ever since March 2007, the group Quinua Arquitectura has been engaged to create the group Tejedoras Urbanas, with the only aim to give these housewives an extra economic contribution to their home income.
On August 2008 starts the RUS project intervention by Basurama all along Latin America, specifically with their first intervention on Miami city.
On November 2008 the network in-between the collective Basurama and the group Quinua Arquitectura starts. They both reach an agreement to make the local intervention created by Quinua architects go global.
A preannouncement project is held by the collective Tejedoras Urbanas, Quinua Arquitectura and the architectural group from New York THEM. This small intervention consists of the creation of an art installation in Centro Cultural España-Cordoba.
From March 19th to 28th, 2009 the process of production of the intervention elements starts, arranging some design collectives and the group Tejedoras Urbanas.
March 28th, 2009 is the date where the interventions are done. The event offers the opportunity to work with Tejedoras Urbanas in order to get to know the work of this collective and announce their work to the general public.
Provide the housewives with a free material. The fabric system consists of processing, quickly and easily, one plastic bottle in a thread of between five and ten meters, with the aid of a machine that consists of only a shaft and a blade. The yarn thus obtained used in place of palm leaf, a common material of Sierra de Córdoba, which has traditionally been used for the work of basketry. Combining the PET yarn with hoop-resistant plastic that is used to strengthen cartons-can hand knitting is possible the union between various objects. Because of the low price PET has reached is almost no longer profitable to sale sell it as raw material, this system is an output to a material that would otherwise accumulate in landfills.
This second strategy promotes also the popular knowledge related to recycling and reusing garbage. Not only gives the Cirujas a new incentive to collect the PET plastic garbage and save it from the danger of ending in the landfills, mixed with other non-recyclable materials, but also tries to involve a bigger public and gives them a ready-made element with their own garbage.
Advertisement of the festival has been done as a strategy in order to convey the intervention to the public, not only for the provision of raw material, but also for the expansion of the group Tejedoras Urbanas. Becoming a part of the project RUS has made this small Local project get to a great amount of public.
The Festival that took place in Plaza de la Intendecia is the fourth strategy in order to make the labour of these women arrive to the public and make them a place on the design market of the city. The festival did not only intend to integrate the knowledge of Tejedoras Urbanas with various designers, giving them space to research other materials and other possible techniques work, but it also intended to involve the surrounding neighbourhood and some of the citizens in this event.
The project involves using a recyclable material, not only revaluating this material economically but also culturally by giving it the value of being now handcrafted. Once the handcrafted materials are used they can be put back to the recycling cycle again, so it does not only use a recyclable material but also produces one.
SUCCESSES AND FAILURES
It has achieved the promotion of handicrafts among the local society, revaluating a material that was at that moment worthless. It has also aroused the popular conscience related to recycling and reusing garbage.
Neighborhood residents and the people of Cordoba approached these days to provide materials, learn the techniques of traditional basketry and participate in the Square Administration. Creating a network of learning, the event ended with a quiet party where everyone could share a bit of their lives with weavers and modify urban public space in their city.
The central aim of the project was to publicize the work of Tejedoras Urbanas to the general public and put them in touch with the world of design to expand the possibilities of marketing their products. It has made an impact on society by highlighting the situation of this collective and the possibilities that can be accomplished with some collective help. It has also created a relationship between some design collectives and the workgroup Tejedoras.
The reactivation of PET plastic collection on its “informal” way has made this practice to be retaken from the Cirujas, saving the 100% recyclable plastic from its loss on the mixture with non-recyclable garbage in the landfill. Non to mention is the work made by the Tejedoras Urbanas that not only work with a recyclable material, but also produce one. Once their handcrafted is used, it can be put back again to its recyclable cycle.
It has created a small economy to benefit two groups of the participants in this initiative, Tejedoras Urbanas and Cirujas. In the case of the economy this small incentive is used to help the family economy. It has also reactivated the collection of PET plastic bottles and therefore revaluated this material in the market which makes it worth to be collected back again by the collective of Cirujas.
As it claims on last news about the group Tejedoras Urbanas, the small business and network is by now not at its highest peak. The lack of demanding customers has made the business decrease and the need of more investors in order to keep the business going on is the most demanding feature of the project by now.
It is an exemplary case because of the optimal comprehension of the reality where it is interacting, it manages to link to existing controversies – environmental and social – firstly; the fact that PET plastic is starting to devaluate and therefore is in risk of not being recycled and the need of some housewives to increase their home economy, by the combination of tradition and innovation the group Tejedoras Urbanas was born.
They also accomplished to convey two clear benefits to a major public: the promotion of handicrafts and the increase of popular knowledge related to recycling and reusing garbage.
Another fact to be mentioned is that they not only worked with a recyclable material, but also produced a recyclable one. Once their handcrafted is used, it can be put back again to its recyclable cycle.
Another main conclusion is the need to be involved in the social context in which the action is happening. The success of this initiative is due to the fact of going public and interacting with other collectives (not just the ones benefited from this initiative), helping to achieve the goal to be known on a bigger context.
Urbanismo Táctico 3- Casos Latinoamericanos, Ciudad Emergente and Streetplans.
RUS, Residuos Urbanos Sólidos, Basura y Espacio público en Latino América 2008-2010, Basurama.