Photo by Xinca

Argentina disposes more than 100,000 tons of used and waste tires annually. Most of them are incinerated, which augments national air pollution problem. The desire to tackle this problem was at the core of a startup, which Alejandro Malgor and his friends, Ezequiel Gatti and Nazareno El Hom, lauched in 2013. Their company, Xinca, uses the discarded tires to produce shoes.

The businessmen are also concerned with tackling the issue of unemployment – they specifically target single mothers, dwelling in Mendoza, and create jobs for them. Production mainly takes place in rural areas, and 25 local women are already employed by Xinca.

According to Malgor, the company is dedicated to the idea of providing jobs for local residents and single mothers, as it will allow them to furnish livelihood for their families.

“Across Women’s Lives project: Wear and Tear series: The women who make our clothes” is responsible for this program. Malgor added that the company always gladly informs that by purchasing Xinca’s products, their clients are reinforcing women empowerment and support people excluded from economy.

In Argentina, the gap between poor and rich is still enormous, despite terminated recession. Moreover, 32 percent of people live in poverty, and 50 percent of workers earn less than the minimum wage.

Empowerment of uneducated women via training is a key objective of Xinca. By independently earning a living, women will be able to regain their dignity, Malgor says. Women are also taught new skills; they work in teams and take responsibility in a job, which also helps them develop personally.

According to 2014 research, one of four households in Argentina are led by a single parent, usually by a female.

A 40-year-old single mother, Mauricia Vargas, has joined Xinca in 2014. Before, she worked in agriculture, which was a poorly paid job and required long working hours. Xinca provided her with training and allows her to earn more to sustain a family.

In 2010, a census has estimated that 1.7 million Argentinian women worked in the countryside. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization indicated that one-fourth of the world’s population is represented by rural women, and they produce more than half of the global food supply. However, these workers are still victims of social, economic and gender inequality.

Malgor said that his business creates social and economic opportunities for women, which will allow them to improve the quality of life for their kids. Since 2013, 20,000 kilograms of scrap tire material have been recycled into shoes by Xinca. Tires were provided to the shoe manufacturer by a tire recycling plant in Buenos Aires.

Apart from recycling, Malgor and his partners collect textile scraps from the fashion industry – the entrepreneurs have built solid partnerships with companies that donate the reusable fabric.

The shoe making process begins at the tire recycling plant – the metals bead is separated from rubber first. Afterwards, the shoe soles are cut right from the tire tread. The rest is made from the fabric provided by the fashion industry. 1,500 pairs of shoes are made by the company every month.

Xinca’s products can be purchased online, or via the ethical clothing company, Patagonia. Apart from shoes, Xinca’s products now include backpacks and caps. The goods can be purchased online as well as through the ethical clothing giant Patagonia. The shoe manufacturer is hoping to use the money it won in a 2017 competition, The Chivas Venture, to expand to Australia, Chile and Uruguay.

Argentinian law requires companies to provide their employees with new shoes every six months, and Xinca recently signed a contract with the municipality of Quilmes to be the official supplier. The company also has a partnership with Boca Juniors, so that for every pair of shoes sold, one is donated to a boy from a low-income background.

In the long run, Malgor is looking to encourage other companies to implement a sustainable model of labor that would involve women. Malgor is aware of his own privilege and says his “easy life with many opportunities” has spurred him to give “at least one” opportunity to people who have not had the same start in life.

Original article by Lucy Sherriff, Kazu