You know that electronic waste gathering dust around your house? He collects and builds robotics kits for free to educate the creators of the future
The first mobile phones began to be sold in Brazil in 1990. They were large and expensive; with the advancement of technology they have become smaller and more accessible. The same thing happened with cameras, computers and dozens of electronic devices. The problem is that they have also become increasingly interchangeable – or disposable.
When disposed of, some of this equipment goes to normal waste and some is recycled, as they are full of materials that can be reused. The point is that it is possible to do more than recycle – and that’s what metarecycle suggest.
The startup’s name comes from metarecycling, a concept that focuses on recycling technology rather than just physical matter. José Sales Neto, 50, creator and project coordinator at Metarecicla, defines the process:
“When a recycler sees a screw, he sees iron. When a metarecycler sees a screw, he sees screw technology that can be used to join one material to another.”
In other words, explains Neto, “it’s not the iron that matters, but the technology in it.”
WORK S ENDANGERED POPULATION THAT WAS THE SEED FOR THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE METACYCLE
grandson attended graphic production on Salesian vocational schools, in in 1987, and worked for many years as a multimedia producer, setting up structures for TV and radio channels and the first streams on the Internet.
The seed for e-waste activities came from volunteer work with vulnerable people in House of street colorsin town São Paulo.
Project It combined activities to turn materials that would otherwise go into ordinary waste into works of art, with the aim of generating income and training vulnerable people, the homeless and assisted living.
Neto taught classes in color theory and shape construction, drawing and design. Your wife. Karina Sales, 27, visual graphic producer and director of Metarecicl, made mosaics with project participants.
“As I worked with technique, people had me as a reference: ‘Grandchild, I have some materials at home and I don’t know what to do. Are you taking it?’ And I started catching
Quality material became available, which he often used or even sold. Then he began to realize that it could become a business.
UNDERSTANDING THE MEANING OF THE CONCEPT, HE STARTED TO STUDY AND DEEPEN THE WORK OF META-CYCLING
Since 2008, Neto and Karina participate in Campus Party Brasil, one of the largest technology and innovation festivals in the country. In the 2010 edition, talking about the business of collecting and reusing electronic waste, they heard about meta-recycling for the first time.
“A person who already had contact with the object identified me as a meta-recycler,” says Neto.
Since then, interest in this topic has grown. At Campus Party Brazil 2017the pair participated in a hackathon proposed by the UN to develop solutions for the sustainable Millennium Development Goals (SDGs).
The activity was an invitation to the development of business and entrepreneurial models related to the goals of sustainable development. There they structured the idea of meta-recycling as a business.
“We developed a minimally viable idea and created a free electronics collection service. We collect the material and in return guarantee that it will not be treated as waste. More than that: that it will turn into education”
With the business model worked out, the couple returned home willing to get their hands dirty.
WITH MATERIALS COLLECTED FOR FREE, THE COMPANY TEACHES YOUNG PEOPLE TO PROCESS WASTE INTO NEW TECHNOLOGIES
Free electronic waste collection is fundamental to the organization of all other company activities.
In the beginning, collections were carried out every two months. The interval between collections decreased, and the amount of incoming material increased.
“Today, collections take place almost every day. In the last month, there were ten tons,” says Neto. Transportation is done through application services and monitored via mobile phone.
Other services are organized on the basis of the collected material. A quarter of the incoming material is recovered and returned to the market: mobile phones without batteries, computers without keyboards and other types of equipment.
“We use a circular economy, which is nothing but the reuse of used material. It gives a person the conditions to have something for a cheap price, you start giving access to consumption. This is an important influence, it shows that the company is not separated from its environment.”
Another 25% of the materials are used to build low-cost robotics kits. Kits are Metarecycla’s main product – and where the startup makes the biggest financial return.
“If a discarded printer is worth 3 reais at the scrap yard, with two or three printer motors I have a kit worth 50 reais. And if I give robotics training with my kit, it’s worth 1,500 reais,” explains Neto.
The trainings are based on educommunication, a social technology that aims to create a communication ecosystem. The proposal is to move away from traditional lectures and make students acquire knowledge so that they can do something with it independently.
In parallel, it would be like teaching physics and chemistry not through formulas, but through their practical application.
“Disassembly is the main form of appropriation of technology. If the student learns to take it apart and then put it back together with its meaning, he will always be ready to understand, question and intervene.”
Motors, sensors, LEDs, electromagnets, wires and circuits are just some of the materials that usually make up kits.
An additional 25% of the material serves as stock, so that Metarecicla always has parts available. The remaining 25% is used to strengthen startup partners, such as Coopermiti, a waste management cooperative, and Escola Criativa Capadócia (in the favela of the same name, in Brasilândia, a neighborhood in the north of São Paulo), an initiative built by Neto and Karina in the community where born.
“This is a school outside of classes. There, kids learn about indigenous culture, food safety, robotics, storyboarding and many other projects.”
Based on their work at the school, the couple also developed a new product: an interactive exhibition.
On a bench full of materials extracted from e-waste, they help students think about the environment and develop awareness about consumption. They then show how each of these parts can be reused.
THREATENED BY THE PANDEMIC, BUSINESS RECEIVED AN IMPULSE WITH THE CONTRIBUTION OF SÃO PAUL CITY HALL
The company went through tough times during the Covid-19 pandemic. Neto says that, shortly before the arrival of the coronavirus, they closed the project of “bringing robotics and meta-recycling to all schools in the country”.State of Sao Paulo”.
The pandemic halted the initiative – but not Metarecycl’s activities.
“Collections continued during that period, because people were at home and returned to looking around their space. But our main economic product, which is education, was affected.”
Despite the difficulties, in 2021 the company received a contribution of 30 thousand reais from the City Hall of São Paulo, through the Vai Tec program.
With the funds, Neto and Karina rented space in Brasilândia to process waste. At the bottom is a meta-recycling station, where materials are received. At the top, a free area to create pieces.
METARECICLA WANTS TO EXPAND ITS REACH BASED ON A BUSINESS MODEL OF COOPERATION
Currently, Metarecicla has a hybrid business model, performing B2B and B2C sales. “We cooperate with the government on teacher training and with end consumers on the sale of robotics and computer equipment,” explains Neto.
The team has 12 employees. During the execution of large projects, the number of people working at Metarecicla can be doubled or tripled.
Recently, the startup contracted to train around 180 teachers to work at Fábricas de Cultura 4.0 in the state of São Paulo, spaces that offer activities related to face-to-face and digital arts.
The idea is for teachers to develop the concept of meta-recycling with students. With the environmental impact caused by the destination of the material, new proposals can be created: games with LED lighting, shows with automation, among others.
Metarecycla’s intention is to be in the four corners of São Paulo, but Neto assures that growth will not happen at any cost:
“We don’t want to expand as a franchise, but with working partners, in a business model of cooperation”
For him, startups like Metarecycla are the future.
“Our company is fully connected to the environment and people. We are not a business model that makes money and [depois] invests in education and ecology. To make money, I invest in education and social-environmental impact. It is inseparable.”
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