Spotted in a Barcelona backstreet, these little ashtrays and
knicknacks by an Afghan refugee who made his way here via Turkey. He
learnt Hindi from the Indian Army and we had a little chat. He makes
about 20 or 25 euros a day during the tourist season to help eke out
his extremely meagre salary as a cleaner in a market. Wish him luck in
his new life, he's all alone in the world now.


Ragpickers in the informal economy, Gangnam style

An informal settlement under Youngdong Bridge #5, in Seoul’s Gangnam district. The residents have lived under the bridge since 1982 but received a notice on July 18 from Gangnam district office informing them that they must vacate the area, as it is scheduled for redevelopment. The people in the area live by collecting recyclables and are now asking the government where they will be moved to.

Full article ‘Rag picker’ community barely hanging on in Seoul’s wealthiest district

Kenya's slum dwellers are suing their plutocrat landlords for the right to their land


Mr Nyakundi's story is not exceptional in a city where 2.65 million of its four million inhabitants live in slums. He is part of what is known as the "invisible majority" of Nairobians who face long-term consequences of land-grabbing and murky title deeds, prey to slum lords who have made vast profits from building shantytowns on contested land and using the notoriously corrupt police and courts system to protect their investments. What is unusual is that he has turned to the same judicial system to put an end to the epidemic of forced evictions.

Along with 40 of his neighbours, he brought a petition this month naming some of Kenya's most powerful individuals, companies and banks, demanding rights to the land they live on and an end to forced evictions. Among the respondents, who must now answer the petition, are the former President Daniel arap Moi – who oversaw land grants in the area – and Cyrus Jirongo, a presidential contender who is among the landowners. The petitioners, who are being supported by an umbrella group for slum-dwellers, Muungano wa Wanavijiji, have succeeded in obtaining an injunction barring any further evictions in an area of Mukuru that is home to more than 100,000 people. The implications of the case are enormous in a city where 67 per cent of the population lives on less than 2 per cent of the land. The petition is being seen as a test for Kenya's much-vaunted new constitution that passed a referendum last year and is supposed to guarantee peoples' rights to adequate housing and secure tenure.

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From Cycling to Upcycling: Maya Pedal's "Bicimaquinas"

via Core77 on 9/24/12

Bicycles are all the rage these days; Interbike notwithstanding, we've seen several concepts lately, from the FLIZ to the CERV (and most recently the unacronymous Bicymple), each an attempt to evolve beyond the traditional diamond frame.


Yet the pedal-powered drivetrain is as tried-and-true as they come, and a Guatemalan (via Canada) nonprof has demonstrated its efficiency and versatility time and again. It's not quite as quintessentially lo-fi as Liter of Light, but Maya Pedal's remarkable upcycling project is a veritable post-industrial revolution for rural Guatemalans... and potentially for underdeveloped communities the world over. The San Andrés Itzapa-based NGO accepts donated bicycles from the US and Canada, which are either refurbished and sold or, more interestingly, converted into "Bicimaquinas" (pedal-powered machines).

Pedal power can be harnessed for countless applications which would otherwise require electricity (which may not be available) or hand power (which is far more effort). Bicimaquinas are easy and enjoyable to use. They can be built using locally available materials and can be easily adapted to suit the needs of local people. They free the user from rising energy costs, can be used anywhere, are easy to maintain, produce no pollution and provide healthy exercise.

MayaPedal-Bicimaquina-Mill-1.jpgThe Bicimolino pedal-powered mill/grinder


In short, Maya Pedal turns scrap bicycle parts into all variety of human-powered municipal machinery: "water pumps, grinders, threshers, tile makers, nut shellers, blenders (for making soaps and shampoos as well as food products), trikes, trailers and more."


TaTapping into REculture for marketing, branding, sustainable design and promotion

Tata Chemicals have just launched a premium version of their IDEA design awardwinning, eco-friendly water purifier, the Tata Swach LaVita. Details of colour options and engraved floral patterns aside, what caught my attention was their deliberate and conscious decision to create re-usable packaging for the product.Here's the snippet from their press reports:

"It also comes in a ‘Wonder Pack’, which is a multipurpose unbreakable container that can be used to store dals, flour or other food items, thus ensuring reuse of the packaging material," the spokesperson said.


Nairobi's Dandora dump and the informal value chain


An informal chain of about 6,000 middlemen and women has long done the
dirty work for recycling companies. The self-employed pickers scavenge
through the sprawling 30-acre rubbish dump from dawn until dusk. They
then take their sacks to nearby weigh stations where small buyers
purchase them, eventually collecting enough to sell on to the informal
truck drivers, who deliver the loads to the recycling companies.
Pickers say they are lucky to make $2.50 in a day. (Photo Credit and
Text via BBC)

Related story from The Rwanda Times quotes wastepickers as claiming $6 a day income while women make around $3. Where's the Beeb getting its figures from?

eBay for Cooking Oil

The new online platform StayGreen Oil is matching vendors and buyers of used oil, increasing the efficiency of the marketplace. Typically the realm of informal and grassroots connections, secondary oil can now be traded securely.

StayGreen lets sellers list the location of their leftover oil on an online auction platform, with the goal of getting top-dollar by tapping into a wide network of buyers, whether “across the street or around the continent,” according to a press release. The site provides a digital platform to monitor collections, track supplier activity, deal with billing and payment, and receive analytics. Sellers can also invite individual buyers to purchase their used oil at a fixed price point, if they’re eager to avoid the variables of an auction. 

“Oil does not wear out,” says the StayGreen site, “it just gets dirty—so recycling it saves a valuable resource.” Used motor oil can get converted into lubricants or raw materials for industry—a much more efficient and environmentally friendly material than dipping into the supply of crude oil for the same purpose. 1 gallon of recycled oil, as opposed to 42 gallons of crude, can be converted into 2.5 quarts of an oil-based lubricant. 

Source: Good


On some level I was surprised to learn about the wastepickers of Europe


There are an estimated 80,000 waste pickers in Athens alone, profiled
in a recent feature film by Christos Karakepelis.I shouldn't have been
surprised; cities produce millions of tonnes of waste in all forms.
Though waste is usually considered a bi-product of a completed
manufacturing process (e.g. scrap metal, plastic packaging), the very
act of discarding waste creates a new 'raw material' to be
reprocessed, manufactured and sold. As long as that raw material has
value, there will be somebody out there extracting it from the garbage
dumps and trashcans of the world's cities. And in Greece right now
there are a whole lot more people looking for work that pays.

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