Mexico City’s Barter Market Trades Fresh Food for Recyclables

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Photo Credit: Some rights reserved by gmtbillings on Flickr.

It would be great to have Ueki, the anime hero who turns trash into cool weapon-like trees, work on the steady stream of garbage that flows from cities and industrial areas today. However, Mexico City may have the next coolest thing: a green barter market which ‘transforms’ trash by letting people trade recyclables for fresh food.

One of many cities’ biggest challenges is how to deal with the tons of trash that urban and industrial areas generate daily. Overflowing local landfills are leading some to cut a deal with other cities in order to dispose their waste.

Inadequate recycling programs often add to the problem instead of lessening it. Failure to adequately deal with the garbage flow results in several difficulties: toxic pollution, polluted waterways, sicknesses and health problems, floods, and air pollution among others.

Mexico City is familiar with the challenge of urban garbage flow, having one of the largest landfills in the world. More than 12,000 tons of garbage were directed at Mexico City’s Bordo Poniente every day. The landfill was recently closed amid calls for a greener waste management in the city. According to a Huff Post Green article this year, Bordo Poniente had taken in over 76 millions tons of trash in its career as one of the world’s largest landfills. When it closed, majority of the waste was directed to landfills located in outlying Mexico, adding carbon emissions and costs in its transportation.

This is one of the reasons why Mexico City’s Mercado de Trueque is a good idea just at present. Mercado de Trueque is a barter market that accepts recyclables in return for locally grown fresh food and products. People bring PET plastic bottles, aluminum cans, glass, and paper products to earn green points which they use to redeem local produce grown in and around the city.

These include spinach, lettuce, tomatoes  cactus, flowers, herbs, and for a time, eggs. Residents approved the idea of turning trash into something of worth, and the first barter market sold out in its launch last March. According to, almost 3 tons of 60 different fresh local food products were exchanged on the first barter market day. The New York Times Green reports that 20 tons of recyclables are being brought in by residents flocking every market day. Around 20,000 exchanges take place every first Sunday morning of the month when the barter market is held.

The recyclables are sent to various specialist recycling-for-reuse companies. According to the SMA website, the barter market promotes both waste reduction and development of agricultural local products.

Paola de Maria y Campos, the project’s coordinator, says in an interview that the barter market is an educational project. The exchange program encourages households to take up the habit of collecting and sorting recyclables instead of dumping mixed waste which is hard to process.

Aside from encouraging waste reduction, the project also promotes reduction of carbon footprint associated with shipment of food products. Mexico City’s barter market is a great idea for cities around the world struggling with waste reduction. Perhaps even Ueki would approve.



Estel M.
About Estel M. (339 Posts)

Estel Grace Masangkay is a creative writer who enjoys outdoor trips and nature activities. She is passionate about sustainability and environment conservation. Follow Me @Em23me.

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