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Talking trash

16 January 2005

In theory we separate organic and inorganic trash (though the pependores throw it all in the same truck. We’re TOLD it gets separated at the landfill, but I have my doubts). At least we have regular garbage pickup. One truck comes through early in the morning, picking up whatever is piled in the streets (some of my neighbors don’t seem to have caught on to the idea of garbage cans yet… oh well, rats need to eat too). Around 10 in the A.M. a guy walks down the street with a clapper bell… I half-expect him to be yelling “bring out your dead, bring out your dead”… and the morning garbage parade starts down the street. Regular trash pickup doesn’t mean door-to-door service. The guys stop in the middle of the block, and you lug down the stuff (a good reason to take the trash out regularly). About 5 we’ll have the afternoon trash parade.

Not suprisingly, we’re running out of landfill space. The pependores themselves do a lot of recycling . Dumpster diving is practically unknown here… I managed to snag a ratty old sofa (a temporary acquision) only by happening on it in the short interval between the time my neighbors tossed it in the street (a rarity, most people sell their crapped out furniture to guys going by with a horse and cart, who resell it to upholsterers who resell it back to whomever tossed it in the first place). It’s semi-reupholstered and one leg is a construction brick, but it’s only temporary… it’ll go to the guy with the pony one of these days.

The pepindores re-cycle a lot of your trash on the spot… the good stuff is pulled aside and neatly piled on the truck, or hung from the side (last week, one truck had three almost complete bicycles and a VW front seat tied to the front grille) while the rest… organic and inorganic… gets unceremoniously tossed in the hopper. Recycled at the landfill? Who knows? There are rumors that all garbage men are rich… I don’t believe it, but they aren’t exactly the poor dump-dwellers of everyone’s Latin American tragic photomontage either. Mexico City’s garbage-men have an excellent union, thanks to a semi-gangster organizer about 30 years ago who only stole enough to support his three wives in palacial style, while negotiating good contracts for these guys that included the rights to recycle, along with decent housing and futbal fields. They may live AT the dump… but they don’t live IN a dump.

And… this is probably the only place in the world where the big national parade highlights the finest equipment of the Army, the Navy, the Marines, the Air Force, the Police and the Garbage Men… who are cheered and applauded wildly. Everybody knows their garbage men, and likes them a lot better than the neighborhood cop.

So… what are our popular garbage men picking up these days? DISPOSABLE DIAPERS! 13 % of all Mexico City trash is disposable diapers… 46% is organic waste, that can be composted, 6.4% is plastic (recyclable, at least in theory), 5% is glass (easily recyclable) and 2% is plastic bottles… also recyclable. But what do you do with poopy diapers? Good thing the birth rate is dropping!

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