A kid's bank teaching waste reduction

Posted on 15 October 2019.

Set up in Peru by a 7-year-old, Bartselana teaches kids about waste management – and they also earn money by recycling.

In 2012 a new kind of bank opened its doors in Arequipa, the "White City", in southwestern Peru. The Banco Cooperativo del Estudiante Bartselana is one of the first ever children's banks (there is also the Children's Development Khazana bank, created around the same time for street children in India). It offers kids the opportunity to take solid waste to collection points in exchange for a sum of money that is credited to their bank account.
Founded by José Adolfo Quisocala Condori, now 14 years old, Bartselana promotes financial education and inclusion for young Peruvians and raises awareness about waste. The project has received several national and international awards, including the 2018 Children's Climate Award.
His sights set on finance from an early age, while attending a state school in the Peruvian city of Arequipa 7 year-old José Adolfo decided he wanted to create a bank just for children. He noticed that some of his classmates were missing lunch because they’d spent what little money they had buying candy or football cards. But above all, outside the school gates he saw poor children forced to work to support themselves. He thought if they were taught about money it would give them a taste for saving.
Armed with lots of courage and unfailing determination, José Adolfo managed to convince a handful of teachers and students that his project would work. A locally held competition helped him get the support of a local cooperative to formally register his bank. And Banco Cooperativo del Estudiante Barselana was born. It offers loans and microinsurance products to children and teens and helps them set - and maintain - savings targets.

Earning money by collecting waste

The bank’s really innovative aspect is that it gives its customers the possibility of putting money into their accounts by collecting waste. “The children would sometimes bring savings of a few cents and I had promised that they could buy a bicycle, a computer or a laptop but with that amount of money it would take a long time,” says José Adolfo to the Guardian newspaper. He then decided there must be a way they could earn money and soon thought that waste – an inexhaustible and under-exploited resource – would provide the solution.
Of course, the idea is not to put kids on the street to collect garbage. On the contrary, it’s about helping to prevent waste from ending up on the street by collecting it at home. Plastic bottles and packaging, cardboard, used paper... The kids sort their solid waste and drop it off at a collection point in their school where it is weighed. The waste is then resold to local recycling companies and the money from the sale is put into their bank account. Only they can withdraw this money - their parents can’t access it.
Bartselana now has some 2,000 customers aged 7 to 18. Thanks to the collection points in seven Arequipa schools - soon there’ll be more - approximately 4 metric tons of waste are recycled a month. José Adolfo is now studying at home. He appears in the French documentary Demain est à Nous directed by Gilles de Maistre, which was released in cinemas on September 25, 2019.