Coprocessing communities

May 2010

Co-processing communities

May 29, 2010 1:24 PM
Silvana Paniagua

Silvana Paniagua and Patricia Galan


Co-processing: a new model to social Cooperation and Communities Collaboration

A city for the future not only has to be resilient according to the challenges that climate change and oil peak presents, it has to be resilient within the sustainability principles and the society has to be compliant with this shift towards “resiliency”. Stronger bonds within society make a more stable structure.

Sustainable development is based in three principles: People, Planet and Profit. The transition towards sustainable cities must keep these three points in equilibrium in order to make it work. Less CO2 emissions have to result in a benefit for the social values and has to bring an added value that results in economic wins. The sustainable development approach brings an additional dimension in the resiliency: the social component. The way people live this new resilient city is the ultimate cause of the success or failure of new ideas.

Mexico City has many challenges: lack of available services, unemployment, lack of efficient public transportation, etc. Also, the global concern to shift towards sustainable cities presents a new challenge that Mexico City will be facing in the incoming years, which is especially complex given the current problems. Solutions must address problems holistically, setting the base for improvements. The solutions for such a city come in tandem: infrastructure, regulations and social cooperation.

The need for social models to consolidate society: co-housing and neighborhood interactions

Communities have evolved based on communication and information technologies: we interact “virtually” with people around the world everyday, but we hardly interact with neighbors and members of our immediate environment. Local cooperation, cohousing organizations and collaboration within the local networks are necessary in order to consolidate a sustainable society.

The shift must be towards the interaction and integration of the society in “neutral” environments or territories where people commonly interact out of convenience, in order to make a real change that might escalate towards the people, planet and profit scenario.

Waste: problems and opportunities

Mexico City has grown in an accelerated way during the last hundred years. This provokes an “organic” growth, which lead to informal processes in the society. Because of this accelerated growth, some process like the waste collection take place partially informally. Characters like the road garbage collector, and habits like reselling goods in the flea market used to organize the reuse and recycling of many goods. However, when some neighborhoods develop, these change consumer behaviors, and the waste management shifts towards a formal structure, reducing the chances to reuse waste.

In a city like Mexico City, millions or tons of trash are produced every day. In average, from 0.92 to 1.50kg or garbage are produced per inhabitant. From that, almost one third can be reusable.

While people focus more and more in recycling, we should focus the awareness in the upper part of the waste hierarchy: reduce, re-use and then recycle. When reusing waste materials we can propose new economical activities and new models of interaction for the social development in the communities. Recycle is a solution, however it requires energy to produce materials usable, and only reduces partially the CO2 emissions caused in the process.

We define “coprocessing” as fixing things that can be reused with minimal intervention to lengthen their life-cycle. This reduces the amount of waste and helps to provide this “second hand” products to people that needs them. It will also help to gather material to give back reusable waste like electronic waste to the manufacture companies.

Social interaction and Urban Networks

We propose to potentialize the “neutral” spaces to generate points where waste materials can be allocated, processed and prepared to be reused. Materials like clothing, toys, books, furniture, can be easily processed and make available to people that can use them. The main objective is decentralizing coprocesing and recycling facilities, making it recycling points convenient for the population.

In this proposal we use the district “Delegacion Cuauhtemoc” in Mexico City to illustrate the idea. In the actual infrastructure we locate the supermarkets since this are “neutral” territories where people normally interact and are convenient. These places play a crucial role when providing services and will continue to be important in a new social model.

The criteria we followed to choose the supermarkets was the accessibility and the actual conditions, whether they have appropriate parking facility or not, where it is possible to establish the proposed collection points. It was also taken in account the demographic characteristics; density and income level to determined the types of waste each collection point has to serve. For example, in a high-income suburb households and furniture will be some of the types, while in a low income suburb these waste would not be one of the types.


In the supermarkets network we propose to build structure which allow locating the recycling facilities and that can allow a multiuse space independent where the compressing activities can take place, along with workshops and some other activities where the community members can bond. These structures will be located in the parking lots from the supermarkets. We call this structures “green points”.

The green point

The “green point” proposed is a facility. Is a ephemeral structure that has two main parts: an open space to collect the waste materials and multipurpose room where the co processing and the other activities can take place.

In the diagram below we explain inputs and outputs in this “green point”. The input is not only the recycling waste and other things commonly found in households. We propose to make operators and users active part in the input to make this “green box” work: students serving social community service, members of the community, government representatives and other stakeholders which can ensure the function of the “green point”.

We mention the practice of the social community service in Mexico because these programs align with our strategy. In order to ensure that the education bring students the tools to propose changes and improvements in society, we designed this “green box” as a space to make this projects real within the immediate reach.

After ‘coprocessing’, the goods are distributed in a local network, this could include schools, orphanages, non profit organizations, and other civil organizations that help to provide for people with less economical resources and in disadvantaged situation.

Co-processing urban system

In the Metropolitan Zone of Mexico City, the system will work as a web in which some “green points” will be interconected to meet all the community needs. It is necessary in order to complete the collection of all waste types through different “green points” prototypes. A more complex level of connection will be communication between communities to establish a cooperation program in order to solve problems and make the needed adjustments to the system for constant improvement and methamorfosis through time.

It is also necessary to stablish a management trust in which the local government, neighbours and experts have a say in solid waste management and the duty to produce periodical reports on the process; to be shared in the co-processing web and use as a tool to anticipate and plan for the future challenges.

Schemes of cooperation at a community level will be the involvement of NGOs, volunteers, neighbours and students under social service and professional interships program. In Mexico is compulsory for obtaining a degree to be part in these programs for 480 hours at the last semesters, the placements include practical activities which both benefit the society and help them to put in practice their theoretical knowledge. So this cooperation system will be giving a different opportunity for the community to get involve in their urban environment. Ginving as well a path to make the urban community aware of climate change and ways to reduce our impact on the environment.

Co-processing in the normal flow system

Our proposal will improve the actual poor recycling system mainly in energy reduction. The waste transportation service will be reduced to industrial waste; because of this reduction will not be necessary to have great areas designated to classification and landfill. With the “green points” we will be reducing wasted areas in the city and give a sustainable use to little portions of the parking areas.

In order to meet the co-processing’s objectives, actual landfill standards must improve in the coming future having controls such as liners, leachate management systems and landfill gas capture.

Example: exploration in community level and potential CO2e reductions 

In order to have a clear idea of the potential CO2 emission reduction, we explored a neighborhood example. This is known as "Colonia Asturias". The location is indicated in the image below, within the dashed line area. 

In order to have some estimations we use some data from the 2000 census. Also, we use the Greenhouse gas Protocol and EPA data to calculate CO2e and additional information. 

The implementation of the green box system potentially can represent a reduction of 55% of the current CO2 emissions generated in Mexico city by waste disposal, and aims to integrate members from the community as part of process. Also, the economic potential is not mention, however it was estimated that every "Green box" could generate 27 formal jobs just in the recycling industry. Additionally informal and indirect jobs are also created within the Green box network. 


People Planet Profit
Social integration of different groups of society.
Awareness and effectiveness through community projects for young people.
Community consolidation
Waste reduction.
Create a convenient and functional way to collect recyclable goods.
Reduction of fuel usage by closing loops in a local network.
Second hand goods.
Manufacture companies can get back reusable parts.
Reduction of distances in processing waste.


A resilient city must be optimal in resource consumption, but must also be actively reflected in the interaction of its inhabitants. For us, a resilient city starts with local active cooperation. A city that encourages active communities by creating the conditions for community participation and involvement is one more of its characteristics that make it a resilient city.

Mexico City is a city with many challenges, but the most puzzling is the integration of a society where social gaps are so strong through social action. We believe that the opportunity to actively collaborate in a local level to support social, economic and ecologic sustainable development can trigger shifts in the society.




Coprocessing Communities

Mexico City has grown in an accelerated way during the last hundred years. This provokes an “organic” growth, which lead to informal processes in the society. Because of this accelerated growth, some processes like the waste collection take place partially informally. However, when some neighbourhoods develop, these change consumer behaviours, and the waste management shifts towards a formal structure, reducing the chances to reuse waste.

This project’s aim is to encourage reduce and extend the life cycle of different articles coming from solid waste, through community processes. We define “co-processing” as fixing things that can be reused with minimal intervention, reducing the amount of waste and helping to distribute these “second hand” products, as well as  giving back reusable waste like electronic to the manufacture companies.

Resilient Design Principles
1. Carbon Dependency Reduction
With the green box system, we are looking at a 55% reduction of the current CO2 emissions generated by waste disposal.

5. System Feed-back Sensitivity
In the co-processing urban system, cooperation program between the green points network is needed as a feedback and improvement within the system.

6. Local Self-Sufficiency
The green points as local community centers help to: decentralize collection, process and redistribute solid waste, and provide employment.

Urban Design Principles
5. Complete Communities
With an analysis in the location and characteristics of the supermarkets network, and with the data crossing from demographics, economics, and employment, was established the location and type of green point to be placed in.

8. Local Sources
The solid waste source to be processed for each green point is obtained locally, within the local community.

9. Engaged Communities
People supporting and working in the green points are active members of each community and acquire a responsibility to keep constant communication with the entire green point network, through a formal trust.

A resilient city must be optimal in resource consumption, but must also be actively reflected in the interaction of its inhabitants. For us, a resilient city starts with local active cooperation.

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