The “Mercado de Trueque”, or barter market, gathered thousands of people in Mexico City on Sunday. For a second year running, thanks to this initiative, the city council was able to collect tonnes of recyclable material, which otherwise would be sent to landfills.
The project was launched by the left-wing government of Mexico City in their attempt to clean up one of the most polluted cities in the world. The aim was to reward citizens, who bring cans, papers, milk cartons, glass and broken electrical appliances, by giving them green points, which then can be spent in a nearby organic produce market.
It is clearly a win-win deal for all parties involved. Recyclable materials are carefully weighed and transported to a local recycling company, the local farmers have their organic produce bought by the government for higher than the market price, and the citizens get high quality fresh produce in return for their trash.
In 2011, the local government introduced new waste management regulations, which required people to separate their trash into organic and non-organic. The main reason for this was the closing down of landfill sites, which previously received around 6,000 tonnes of trash on daily basis.
In this sense, the barter market, which is organized every month at various locations around the city, helps people adjust to the new regulations. The popularity of the event is great. Every month, more than 2,000 citizens take advantage of the opportunity to exchange trash for food and really understand the value of separating the materials.
Liliana Balcazar, a governmental official closely involved in the organizing of the event, points out that although the market alone is far from solving the recycling problems of the city, it does raise awareness while encouraging people to do something good for the environment.