While other countries such as Europe, the United States and Canada have closed landfills since the 1980s, resulting in stricter but more efficient regulations, our pace at waste disposal is much slower.
Mexico City has experienced excessive growth since the 20th century, as both lifestyles and the resources needed to sustain the population changed. There seem to be countless problems plaguing this city, which is plagued by global overpopulation and the unchecked expansion of its borders.
Fifty years ago people spoke of the belt of misery that surrounded the city, which consisted of various towns where immigrants from other states settled to adapt to the new rhythm of life, and the city is still growing. This has led to pollution in all areas: atmosphere, water degradation, loss of natural areas and fauna, and loss of agricultural land.
In economic terms, it is difficult to claim that we have the resources to support a population that adheres to the limits of urbanization, no matter how marginal, due to the country’s also deficient production systems, the inadequate use of resources and over-exploitation. from many others.
It is obvious that it is not a fair country, let alone less organized, and while politics allocates the benefits to a small sector, the majority of the population suffers the devastating consequences of waste and lack of education and general awareness.
As a reflection of what is happening worldwide, the Mexican population has also experienced the greatest difference in purchasing power in terms of the loss of values that rebel against economic power (due to the introduction of new patterns of production, technology and consumption). between suffering and rest.
The trash you can’t see
One of the unremarkable problems is the excessive generation of garbage, which is located in places that are not the most suitable or do not have the necessary control. Consequently, in a short time, the landfills that house our city’s garbage will reach their limits and will have no alternative for waste disposal. However, this type of accommodation is not the most suitable or reliable for health reasons.
While other countries such as Europe, the United States and Canada have closed landfills since the 1980s and introduced stricter but therefore more efficient regulations, our pace is much slower.
In the context of Mexico City in 1992, a series of accidents that occurred in 1991 led to the creation of the Metropolitan Solid Waste Management Program: “Thirteen fires caused by gases from the uncontrolled landfill and the presence of numerous victims, including Children.” who live in the vicinity of the landfills (1).
Before the implementation of this program, the only option for final disposal of solid waste was open dumping with all the associated damage. However, this law is not enough, so the priority is to examine the application of the laws to specific situations in order to adopt regulations that solve the countless problems that still arise in relation to the legislation.
In Mexico City, an average urban family (consisting of 5 people) produces one cubic meter of waste per month, which corresponds to three million cubic meters for the entire city. To put this number into perspective, the Azteca Stadium can only hold one million cubic meters, which would mean that Mexico City requires a site three times the size of the Azteca Stadium on a monthly basis. 11,850 tons of municipal solid waste are generated every day, 50% of which consists of organic waste and 34% of recyclable materials (2).
Regarding the management of municipal solid waste (waste generated in households and small businesses), Article 58 of the Rules of Procedure of the Public Administration of the Federal District provides that the DDF is responsible for the activities of “minimization, collection, transfer, facility selection and use” as well as final storage facilities ; organize and carry out the treatment and final storage of solid waste as well as the operation of transfer stations (3)”; The delegations therefore have the task of coordinating garbage collection in the houses.
The problem begins in the case of Bordo Poniente – the only landfill still open – which was a landfill in its first phases and then became a sanitary landfill, but which lacks basic international requirements. This procedure was carried out on the thirteen landfills that disappeared in the last decade because they were only covered with earth and had no other control, but the damage had already been done.
On the other hand, there continues to be uncontrolled dumping of waste; there is talk of about “six thousand secret dumps on undeveloped land, cultivated land, areas in the Guadalupe Mountains and rivers in the area(1)”; as well as the problem of contamination from seepage from water bodies and internal currents a few meters from the city surface.
The distribution of garbage truck routes is also problematic because it is done on the basis of profitability and therefore does not reach the poorest neighborhoods where organic waste is in abundance and is not worth selling. Likewise, collectors require a tip even though the service is free.
However, the most alarming impacts are in the suburbs, whose growth has come through industrial activities in areas such as Naucalpan, Ecatepec, Nezahualcóyotl, Coacalco, Chimalhuacán and Huixquilucan, where the waste from the Federal District is dumped.
The global problem of waste generation
The problem of solid waste management is common to all nations and has two aspects: an environmental aspect and a socio-economic and political aspect. In the second case, in underdeveloped countries, the management of this waste is taken over by the informal sector: the scavengers.
The most serious problem faced by scavengers is marginality: this sector, on which small-scale recycling depends in Mexico, is discriminated against by the rest of society because it lives in garbage. However, they represent an important segment if you include them 10 thousand And 16 thousand scavenger
At the dump, people live in families in squalid conditions, “under an informal but well-organized work structure built through persuasive mechanisms such as poverty…, violence and respect for the leaders established by the establishment out of fear (4)”.
In addition, Mexico lacks regulations that require entrepreneurs to produce only reusable or at least recyclable products, which impacts the accumulation and separation of materials, which becomes even more difficult.
The problem of waste lies in the excessive production that has spawned the consumption system that governs Mexico City. The overvaluation that people place on these products has led to ignorance and insensitivity, making it all about acquiring things without considering the impact it brings to our world.
“The true and sad thing is that the same person is the one who constantly (produces garbage) due to ignorance, bad habits, laziness and irresponsibility (5),” leading to a battlefield where no one wants to be responsible for what it produces or for what it buys.
The limited economic opportunities of the Federal District also prevent the implementation of alternative methods of waste management, since the current system (the landfill) is inefficient from an environmental point of view to solve the problem.
Although blindness is the most comfortable attitude, making our city the place we want to live lies in taking responsibility for the waste we produce and changing our habits.
Turn a problem into an economic opportunity
As in other countries, converting waste disposal into an industry would bring great benefits, including the reduction and correct separation of waste, the care of the groundwater table, the fauna and flora of the city, the creation of sources of employment (where the work of… . the scavengers would be employed) and the creation of national companies. All of this is the result of the actions of each of us.
There are no economic or human resources to counteract the damage being done to our city today due to this lack of awareness among the population. The problem lies not in the landfills or in the fact that the garbage is not thrown on the streets, but in the inadequacy of our lifestyle, which accelerates our process of self-destruction day by day, since it is obvious that we are without the resources we can not survive.
(1) Severini, Pamela. Garbage disposal in large cities. UNAM, Humanities Coordination of the North American Research Center, 1995. 40
(2) Gazette of Solid Waste Management and Control in Mexico City, 2.
(3) Official Gazette of Solid Waste Management and Control in Mexico City, 1
(5) Padilla Massieu, Carlos. “Garbage”. The environmental guide. coord.. and comp.. Regina Barba Pirez. Union of Environmental Groups IAP México, 1998, 527.
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