DUTCH DESIGN WEEK 2019
Hello there, I’m Fede Baroni, 23 years old founder of WALTIC and this is my story.
I’m originally from Rosario, Santa Fe the third biggest city in Argentina, South America.
When I was 17, I experienced something that would change my entire life. I didn’t find a name for what I always had: spontaneous ideas (really well-finished ones) actually it scared me sometimes. One day I was meditating in my mother’s cottage staring at the sunset, and I took the firm decision to use that creative flow to fix the world, so I started my way into sustainability.
I started crafting paper wallets using craft paper, which in Argentina is the most eco-friendly paper available. It was in fact an accident, as I lost my wallet, so improvised one using paper. And then I was shocked by the capability of the product. So I started to take a closer look at the paper design and improving my own design. The outcome was very good and I ended up making an origami wallet that didn’t need to be glued, it was made just by folding and using an A4 sheet. This was my first sustainable development and we started to craft wallets for local stores and brands, sometimes as part of a green campaign and we would make customized designs for them. That changed my entire vision of design, on how to apply and use materials. I discovered that it was not necessary to make everything out of virgin plastic or traditional materials that aren’t eco-friendly, so I started to question everything.
You can make something using organic materials and also recycled materials. After the wallet, I started to develop a wooden watch using bamboo, because bamboo is the best type of wood to do it as it is eco-friendly. That was a very interesting project because we had to reverse engineer watches, put them apart, start to measure everything in order to start prototyping. After 6 months we came up with a pretty nice watch. After that, I started having problems with myself and that project (It was called Aliwen). I had a problem because I was not polluting, because everything was made out of organic materials, and we gave guidance to our customers on how to recycle the watch. They could pull apart the machine inside, the batteries and all of that and after that, they could just throw the rest in a compostable bin. So that was good, but then I realized that I am not fixing anything, I am not contributing to pollution, but I am not fixing plastic pollution for example.
So I started researching to see if it was possible to use recycled plastic in order to make a wristwatch. At that very moment, I contacted my current partners in Cordoba, Argentina. They were making a Precious Plastic point, but they were making standard products at that time, like rulers, chess pieces etc. So one day I came to them and I said: ‘’hey guys, would you please help me to turn this wooden watch into a recycled plastic one?’’, and they loved the idea, so we started to work together.
After 3-4 months of research, trials and testing, we figured out how to recycle plastic bags into a watch. That was quite a breakthrough, the very moment that we achieved that I was like ‘’Guys, are you aware of what we just did? We just recycled a plastic bag, not just a bottle cap, which is really easy because it is good quality plastic, but a plastic bag that was laying down in the river. We took it and we could make something with it’’, that’s pretty cool you know! So we decided to stay in this line, focus our work on recycling plastic bags, and right now this is what we do.
WHY CREATING A SUSTAINABLE ITEM?
I will introduce a little bit of my childhood here. I was raised in a cottage, close to Rosario.
I had always been surrounded by animals and my parents were wildlife rangers and also sailors that’s why I’m so close to the water and why I’m so aware of plastic pollution below water. So they taught me to respect nature from a young age, and that means not harming animals nor the environment, not to bother nature. So I was raised in a very ‘virgin’ environment, and then when I grew up, I started to go to high school and I saw that life in the city is really f**ked up, nobody respects nature, there is no place for that. I thought this was really bad, so I promised myself that I would try to do something that would restore nature and would preserve it.
Due to the economic crisis that South America is facing, there are no funds to invest in this kind of projects, the national programs aimed to promote sustainable projects are stuck and is too risky for private investors. Also, the government wouldn’t help me, right now the Brazilian and Argentinian government are implicated in burning part of the Amazona rainforest to produce cow meat and even develop real state projects, so I got to think something else.
WHAT SHOULD I DO THEN?
I decided to go to Europe, The Netherlands specifically. Because the country has the mindset to let these projects happen. My plan from the beginning was: found the project, get the funds, start cleanups in South America and recycle all that plastic into memorable objects, like the watch.
It wasn’t easy, first I got to adapt to Dutch culture, find a job, survive until I could find something (I came to NL with just 300USD). Struggling to get in contact with investors, I met Melisa Monti an Argentinian designer based in NL who helped me to find my current business partner. After months of work, we could finally legally found WALTIC B.V. in The Netherlands and start our operations in South America.