Chapter 3 discussion questions

Waste for Life: poverty-reducing technologies for repurposing waste at the margins

Caroline Baillie and Eric Feinblatt

Caroline Baillie and Eric Feinblatt examine labor practices at the point of destruction or re-use. Applying a post-development framework, Baillie and Feinblatt conduct a critique of Waste for Life, an organization that aims to provide an urban recycling service in Buenos Aires. Baillie and Feinblatt argue that the model for social change used by Waste for Life presents a socially-just alternative to traditional public/private profit-making approaches to recycling, and may provide lessons for other efforts to reform the waste industry. Waste for Life has shown that different groups work within the recycling system in different ways. Some important principles and practices include assemblies and equal pay, sin patrón – working without a boss – and people before profit. The chapter demonstrates how Waste for Life works to reinforce these features with the ultimate purpose of contributing to the larger discussions and experimentations in alternative modes of social and productive life, including social, environmental, and economic relationships to commodities and commodity disposal.



  1. What are the differences between traditional approaches to recycling and the Waste for Life model?
  2. How does technological change in the recycling process contribute to social and economic change?
  3. What opportunities are there for cooperatives in the global economy? What are the obstacles?
  4. How do the authors view their own position in creating change? Do you agree with their assessment of Waste for Life?
  5. What are the challenges they faced when developing a sustainable economic model? How did they address those challenges?