- Title: MEXICO: Rubbish disaster looms at giant Mexico City dump
- Date: 13th February 2009
- Summary: (SOUNDBITE) (Spanish) EMPLOYEE AT THE CITY'S COMMISSION FOR THE INTEGRAL MANAGEMENT OF SOLID RESIDUES, JORGE MENENDEZ, SAYING: "The fundamental idea is for no more rubbish to be deposited there. I have insisted we should no longer fill the earth with rubbish, because otherwise we won't have pure water. The aquifers could become polluted, in particular those located on higher ground. What we need to do is avoid burying the rubbish. We need to process it instead, reduce rubbish generation, process and reduce the rubbish we have. If we are unable to recycle, turn into compost or when we are not unable to minimize the rubbish that exists, then I would suggest turning it into electric energy ." VARIOUS OF RUBBISH AND CONTAMINATED WATER IN NEZAHUALCOYOTL DUMP SITE RUBBISH TRUCKS IN NEZAHUALCOYOTL DUMP SITE
- Embargoed: 28th February 2009 12:00
- Location: Mexico
- Country: Mexico
- Topics: Health,Domestic Politics
- Reuters ID: LVA338PN2SY0BPJGHKHSEOGN43KE
- Story Text: Mexico City is facing a crisis over where to put its trash -- enough to fill four sports stadiums a year -- with its sprawling dump already crammed to bursting and under a closure order.
One of the world's biggest landfills, the Nezahualcoyotl dump site is a fifth the size of Manhattan and sits inside the urban sprawl of the fast-growing Mexican capital.
Mexico City is built on a dried-out lake bed first settled by the ancient Aztecs and grew at such a frenetic pace in the 1980s and 1990s that it now envelopes outlying villages, the dump and the international airport.
Now, mountains of refuse piled several stories high are pressing against a major drainage canal that runs along the dump's edge. That risks a rupture that could flood residential areas and the airport with stinking effluent and grime, says the federal government which ordered the dump closed in January.
Efforts have been made by the local government, after it launched a campaign several years ago to teach households to separate organic waste from recyclables. Sorting centers were built to replace informal workers who rake through trash for scraps of metal, plastic and paper.
Despite that, only 15 percent of the city's garbage is recycled, compared to up to 60 percent in parts of Europe.
There are no waste reduction programs. Styrofoam plates, cups and plastic straws pile up at taco stands and shoppers pack groceries into doubled-up plastic bags.
Resident, Miguel Blanquel, told Reuters, there is no point in separating rubbish at home as it is mixed up again when it is collected.
"At the moment no (does not separate rubbish) because in my neighbourhood, rubbish is not separated yet as it is done in other parts of the city. It (programme) has not been implemented yet and so it doesn't make a difference if I separate it or not because it'll be mixed up again in the rubbish truck," he said.
City officials are stalling in court, arguing that the danger is exaggerated and asking for more time to implement ambitious recycling and green energy projects.
"More polluting methane will be generated which has a very high global warming effect. Secondly, the ground will continue to sink, there will be more generation of contaminated water, tainted aquifers, more contamination of the surrounding areas, damaged wildlife and bad odors and this is not fair for any of the residents living in surrounding areas," said Mauricio Limon, an official at the Environment Ministry, which has been trying to close down the landfill for years.
Mexico City's left-wing government is facing off with the ruling conservatives to keep the dump open and find green alternatives to absorb the 12,500 tonnes of garbage produced each day by the capital's 20 million residents.
City officials say garbage can be heaped up at the 4-square-mile (10-square-km) site on the edge of Mexico City for several more years. Small privately run landfills are offering their services, but at triple the price and with less space.
An employee at the city's commission for the integral management of solid residues, Jorge Menendez, said other ways to get rid of rubbish desperately needed to be implemented.
"The fundamental idea is for no more rubbish to be deposited there. I have insisted we should no longer fill the earth with rubbish, because otherwise we won't have pure water. The aquifers could become polluted, in particular those located on higher ground. What we need to do is avoid burying the rubbish. We need to process it instead, reduce rubbish generation, process and reduce the rubbish we have. If we are unable to recycle, turn into compost or when we are not unable to minimize the rubbish that exists, then I would suggest turning it into electric energy,"
Mayor Marcelo Ebrard, with one eye on a future presidential bid, has made strides toward making the capital greener, adding cycle lanes and public transport. Now he has big plans for a $186 million recycling center and a methane gas project like one that fuels the metro in the northern city of Monterrey.
The plans could take years to come to fruition, however.
Nezahualcoyotl workers pushing bulldozers over animal carcasses from food markets, computer parts and plastic bottles say they are caught in the middle of a political fight.
Pilot projects at the dump include one that has 7 million worms chomping away at organic waste, including 14 tonnes a day of animal innards, to turn it into rich compost.
Another project uses a water filter to skim off some of the black sludge that bubbles off the trash heaps and distill it into yellowish water, used to wet dusty roads in the area.
The city wants to build infrastructure to capture 1.4 million tonnes a year of greenhouse gas belched by decomposing trash and burn it to run power stations, helping reduce smog.
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