“So you work with garbage?”
Meet Javier Alberto Viscarra. A 49-year old entrepreneur, he recycles hospital waste to develop solutions for unwanted plastic. His product is simple, a machine that breaks down “low density polyethylene” – substance that plastic bottles contain – and recycles them as granules for reuse in the market. He developed his first machine in 2010 when he started his workshop with limited capital and his wife told him - "think of this as your biggest fight, of which you cannot escape without winning." And Javier loves a good fight!
Javier has been IMPRO's borrower - Kiva’s partner in “Altiplano” region of Bolivia - for over 15 years. He takes small loans (for around $1500) to buy one spare part at a time for his recycling machines that helps him expand his inventory.
Since designing his first machine, he has managed to put together 6 such machines – all by himself, mostly by researching and watching YouTube videos. An automobile mechanic by training, Javier has been an entrepreneur for the last 6 years, when he opened his workshop after his father sold their family home and gave him a small inheritance. He has a good relationship with most of the hospital staff, who voluntarily call him to collect plastic bottles and waste that they throw away for garbage.
“I am from the middle class so they trust that I have some tangible alternatives to recycling plastic. Nevertheless, lower class people can easily replicate my method to recycle plastic bags that are used for groceries.”
His friends don't understand what he does. He explains that they ask him why he works with garbage - most of them have jobs at banks or corporate offices. He would be considered a trailblazer in any other country.
Bolivia, at least La Paz, is an emerging-dormant market for sustainable products, Javier tells me. People are not conscientious of choosing solar energy or hydroelectricity over coal or gas. Green products are not as popular in Bolivia, as people’s understanding of “medio-ambiente” (or climate change) is not fully developed. Whenever people ask him why he chooses to recycle and create machines over a more stable job, he responds:
“It’s just good business, it’s economical to create the machines and in the future, these products will have more value than the most popular ones in the market.”
He’s a lone ranger who designs and creates his machines himself and he does not hire any labor – knowing that he would have to monitor their work constantly and be in the constant fear that they will duplicate and/or sell his product. He hopes to have a team to monitor quality of his machines someday, and be able to patent them too! He reads a lot of motivational writers, and quotes Benjamin Franklin to explain how he motivates himself everyday: "See your every defect clearly and try to correct it."
His biggest challenge, he says –
“When I am alone in my workshop, creating machines is my passion but I have to control my instinct to innovate continuously – instead, I have to focus on practical needs of being a businessman and a breadwinner.”
To support inspirational, fearless entrepreneurs like Javier everyday - lend to IMPRO's clients on www.kiva.org.