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Lessons from an Embargo: Cuba’s Recycling Expertise January 30, 2007

Posted by publicpolitics in Environmental Policy.
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Ariel Rodriguez makes new keys from old ones. He shapes them on a 1953 key-copying machine that he bought broken and fixed with parts from a grain mill. He shines them on a key polisher he rebuilt with a washing-machine motor.

Source: archives.seattletimes.nwsource.com

This story from the Florida-Sun Sentinel tells of an expertise untapped. When the decades-long U.S. trade embargo of Cuba finally ends, there may be plenty to learn from the ordinary people of that country. Over the years, as the story indicates, they have become past masters at the art of recycling.

The Cuban government seeks to promote recycling as good for the planet, which is undoubtedly is, and not to draw attention to recycling as grim necessity- which it also is. The Party line, in this case, is like most party lines the world over- a grain of truth represented as a diamond. Nonetheless, the truth is that ordinary Cubans have a whole wealth of expertise that is extremely valuable and takes recycling far beyond the American vision of it as sorting glass from paper. One hopes that somewhere in Cuba historians, reporters, and cultural anthropologists are trying to capture what will certainly be a body of knowledge in future demand, all over the world. Wouldn’t it be a fine irony if at the end of the day, Cuba’s contribution to the family of nations was a Guerrilla recycling manual that helped the rest of the world cut down on its waste and reuse some of its overabundant trash?

Tags: washing-machine | shines | polisher | key-copying | shapes | rebuilt | parts | ones | mill | makes | Keys | grain | Rodriguez | Politics | CUBANS | Cuba

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