MIT SENSEable City Lab designed a program called Forage Tracking to make informal waste recycling cooperates more efficient through the introduction of digital materials. Named for the microeconomic theory of optimal foraging, this program tests the effect of communication technology on recycling cooperatives in Sao Paolo, Brazil. With 500 informal waste recycling cooperates in Sao Paolo employing 60,000 people that collect over 90% of the recycling material, these cooperatives are vital to the sustainability of the city.
While the Catadores (informal recyclers) created a functioning business, their primitive methods of operation limit their full potential. MIT SENSEable City Lab, working with COOPAMORE, a coop in Sao Paolo, explored the spatial organization and communication of the cooperatives within the community. Portable GPS loggers were taken en route and evaluated at the end of the day, showing the workers their illogical route and thereby allowing them to make better spatial decisions. At the same time, the design of a participatory media platform allowed for real-time data management and coordination with potential clients, limiting confusion.
Other projects have approached cooperatives with the idea that they should be transformed to follow traditional business policies. Instead of completely transforming cooperatives, MIT SENSEable City Lab will supply the technology to enhance these cooperatives through digital spatial data methods. While maintaining the structure, the Forage Tracking initiative will improve efficiency and help bring thousands of people out of poverty.