Trash or Treasure! Opportunities and Challenges for Artisan Enterprise from Recycled Waste
Scavenging, or informal recycling, represents a significant global economic activity (Medina, 2007) allowing certain groups to survive while providing raw materials to various industries including agriculture, housing, industry, and artisan enterprise. In developing areas, artisans use scavenged raw materials to create a wide variety of products including pottery, sandals, lamps, fashion accessories, and textiles. This paper uses two cases in Guatemala as evidence of the informal recycling system. Data were collected in Guatemala through participant observation, interviews with artisans and organizational leaders, and photo documentation of production processes and finished products. Data were analyzed through constant comparison, and resolution of themes, issues, and challenges emerging from the data. In Project #1, artisans wove strips cut from plastic bags into household products and accessories for export. In Project #2 artisans hooked rugs for the U.S. market from used clothing purchased at pacas. Both projects have contributed significantly to economic sustainability for families and communities in Guatemala.