Recycling and Waste in Mexico City


David Brandos, Pastor of a Lutheran Congregation in Mexico City


From August 13-15, I participated in the Convocation of ELCA Teaching Theologians at Trinity Lutheran Seminary and Capital University in Columbus, Ohio, which focused this year on the theme of ecology and environmental justice. Following the convocation, one of the other participants, David Rhoads (a member at St. Andrew Lutheran Church in Racine, Wisconsin—one of our sponsoring congregations) suggested to me that I include some short articles on this topic in our missionary newsletter. So I will do so.

I will begin with the subject of waste and recycling. We usually throw out our waste with the street sweeper, who sweeps our street and collects garbage daily (see image below), though sometimes we take it out to the garbage truck that comes by. The street sweeper separates out what is recyclable (paper, plastic, glass, etc.), as you can see in the various bags he has on his cart. While he receives a small salary, he also earns money from tips (we usually give him a little over a dollar) and from selling what is recyclable.

            Only about 12% of the waste in the Mexico City area is recycled, compared to 32% in the U.S. There are various reasons for this, but the main one is lack of funds. Two years ago we were told that we would need to separate our garbage into organic and non-organic waste, but this has not been implemented in many places (like our area) because the government has not been able to afford the trucks and equipment necessary. Most of the separating and recycling is done by sweet sweepers or people at the garbage dump who make their living by sifting through what is deposited there. Thus, the lack of funding and infra-structure tends to prevent countries like Mexico from making large advances in areas such as ecology, recycling and environmental justice.