In São Paulo, the vast majority of can recycling is done by individuals called catadores. They collect discarded drink cans in their carts to recycle for money to help support themselves. London-based Studio Swine took to the streets to create a project that would help catadores get much more money for their work.

The duo behind Studio Swine made an improvised mobile foundry to smelt the aluminum from the cans. They then pressed locally-found objects into sand found at a nearby construction site to make molds. After pouring the liquid aluminum into the molds, the team had created interestingly-shaped stool seats. Each stool requires around 60 cans to produce. This may sound like a lot, but a catadore can collect thousands of cans in one workday.

Coletivo Amor de Madre commissioned the project and arranged for the designers and catadores to work together, scouring the city for interesting materials and building their one-of-a-kind stools. The designers and the catadores alike learned to see the city in a new way – rather than looking around and seeing garbage, they began to see interesting materials and opportunities to use them.

Thanks to this half art/half can recycling vocational training project, the can collectors of São Paulo now have a new way to earn an income. The mobile foundry was gifted to the catadores with the intention that it be shared between them. The can collectors have a wide array of objects that they can make with the melted aluminum, taking ephemeral street objects and turning them into a kind of snapshot of the city.

“Can City is a collection of aluminium objects made from waste on the streets of São Paulo. A mobile foundry was created from salvaged materials to melt aluminum cans using waste vegetable oil collected from local cafes as a fuel. Waste collectors known as Catadores mine the streets for materials to create objects with vernacular aesthetic, providing a portrait of the streets.”