From homeless to taxpayer

Published on Friday, 20 December 2019

Few study to change their life from recycling. Ricardo ‘Coco’ Niz (56) did it with great honor. He went from being in a street situation to being a cooperative, environmental promoter and managing the El Correcaminos Recycling Cooperative. We support your venture because your history of effort and work inspires us.

From Entre Ríos to Plaza Once

But not everything in his life was simple. A lot of water ran under the bridge to get to what at this time.

Coco, as they affectionately call him, grew up in a reformatory in Entre Ríos. At 14, he escaped and undertook a trip to Buenos Aires to arrive on a winter afternoon in 1977, without knowing anyone, without money, without an address that would guarantee a roof to sleep ... literally "on the street". “I don't remember the day, the month or the hour. Only it was cold. And I know it was 77, because a year later the 1978 World Cup was held”.

In the immediate vicinity of the Chacarita cemetery, at the exit of the train, Coco found a space to rest. There he stayed several weeks until he began to walk and arrived at Once.

He slept eight months in the Mausoleum of Bernardino Rivadavia in Plaza Miserere; there he cooked and drank mate with other companions. At that time he was a construction worker on the railroad.

From homeless to taxpayer

But the situation that would change his life came months later, when living under a bridge in Villa Crespo, a nun who gave him catechesis - under the bridge - proposed to go to school. “I agreed in exchange for them to give me the food for my children. From there my freedom began”.

He read everything that fell into his hands until one day, digging garbage in a container, he found a magazine that talked about cooperatives. “I saved her and took her to the 43 families she lived with on the bridge and read them to her. I told them that was our hope”.

Although not very convinced, his colleagues "signed" to create the Cooperative and there opened the second door of his life. "First the school and now the possibility of working and earning a salary”.

A few years passed until what is today Roadrunner. A recycling cooperative, located in Barracas, that feeds almost 50 families and plans to reach 100 in the future. It sells 35 tons per month and “we aspire to double this figure as much as possible. If everyone understood how valuable garbage is in terms of recycling, long ago in Argentina it would have lowered unemployment and increased everyone's standard of living”.

Ricardo Coco Niz manages the Cooperative today. He feels satisfied that he has created a structure that allows him to work to support his family and also 46 more families of recyclers. Each one has a function within the cooperative, and they recycle up to 20 different types of waste.

“Here we all work. We assign the tasks according to the abilities of each one, so that there is no one left without participating. We encourage collaborative work, inclusion and recognition of the other”, says Coco.

Coco is not ashamed to call himself indigent. “It is what touched us. Shme I would be a criminal. Luckily, recycling garbage I have been able to support my family and get my children ahead. Roadrunner is the return to all those people who paid taxes for me to study and now allows us to pay taxes as taxpayers to children who want to study”.