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It's plastic fantastic at disabled workers' recycling plant
Spanish factory turns out furniture made from discarded electronics waste.
(A native of England, Matthew Diebel is a veteran journalist who has worked at NBC News, Time, USA Today and News Corp., among other organizations. Having spent his childhood next to one of the world's fastest bodies of water, he is particularly interested in tidal energy.)
Hey, do you like my new iTable? And look at our super Samsung stool. And our phenomenal Panasonic (PCRFY) flower pots!
That’s our somewhat tongue-in-cheek take on what is a truly laudable enterprise in Spain, where a recycling company is breaking down what is left of cellphones and other electronics after the valuable metals and other stuff is taken out and turning the resulting plastic and other materials into furniture. Not only that, but it’s also employing disability-challenged workers to do it, reports Bloomberg.
The company, called La Hormiga Verde, or “the green ant,” after owner Ignacio Garcia’s ant-like affection for gathering and storing things, recycles about 99.5% of the 265 million pounds of thrown-out electronics it gathers each year.
The 34 staff members at La Hormiga Verde’s 23,681 sq. ft. plant labor at individual stations to recover about 2,200 lbs. of plastic and the same amount of iron and about 660 lbs. of copper. Others work on transforming the non-valuable materials into such items as tables made of ground plastic, stools from washing machine parts and flower pots from cables.
As to why Garcia employs disabled people, the 50-year-old industrial engineer reflects on his past. “I lost my job in 2018 and had to reinvent myself,” he said. “I conceived the company as a tool to help other people who had lost their job, as I did.” As for an employee, Domingo Fernandez, he said he was unemployed for five years “before starting this job. … Without it I’d still be at home.”
But the company is not a charity. Revenue, including the subsidies, reached about $845,000 in 2021, said Garcia, who expects it to increase by as much as 35% in 2022, exceeding $1 million. He’s also expanding the operation beyond its HQ in southwest Spain and plans to enter Portugal next year.
As the Spanish say, ¡Olé!