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Mexico City and suburbs scrambling to solve trash crisis

February 3, 2012 | 12:55 pm

Mexico City workers remove garbage at the monument to Benito Juarez.
REPORTING FROM MEXICO CITY -- Where will this city dump the tons upon tons of garbage produced every day by millions of people?

Nearly two months after it officially closed one of the largest trash dumps in the world, Mexico City's government and dozens of its suburban counterparts are scrambling to remake plans to solve a garbage crisis that apparently caught officials unprepared (links in Spanish).

Refuse has piled up in illegal or clandestine dumps that have proliferated across the region since the December closure of the Bordo Poniente dump.

Suburban officials in the state of Mexico, which borders Mexico City and accounts for a big share of the metropolitan region's residents, are complaining that garbage trucks from the Federal District, as the capital is known, have been invading their dumps and leaving trash there.

In an embarrassing development, trash began piling up in front of a monument to national hero Benito Juarez in downtown Mexico City just days after the Bordo closure, left there by trash collectors displeased with long lines at other dumps.

Suburban governments are trying to figure out what to do next.

The eastern suburb of Ciudad Nezahualcoyotl is looking into privatizing collection for the 1,200 tons of trash it produces daily. To the west, Naucalpan wants to fine residents who don't separate organic garbage from non-organic (links in Spanish). 

Environmental experts say there was no comprehensive plan in place before the Bordo dump closure.

"The first thing to understand is that there was a lack of planning and foresight," said Gustavo Alanis, director of an environmental law center in Mexico City. "This is a problem that should not have arisen because we've known for many years that one day the Bordo Poniente would close, that it would reach its capacity."

The government says it is addressing the problem by opening recycling and bio-fuel centers.

But through a spokeswoman, the administration of outgoing Mayor Marcelo Ebrard declined to answer specific questions about the trash problem. Calls to the city's environmental law enforcement agency were not returned.

The crisis threatens to tarnish the legacy of Ebrard, who was runner-up in the internal race to be the presidential candidate for Mexico's main leftist party. His Democratic Revolution Party has ruled Mexico City for nearly 15 years and expects to retain its position in this summer's election.

"They went into doing other things that for them were more important, like the [new subway line], and pursuing the presidency of the republic," Alanis said. "They didn't give the necessary attention to the trash issue."


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-- Daniel Hernandez

Photo: City workers remove garbage that accumulated over the Christmas weekend in front of the monument to Benito Juarez in downtown Mexico City on Dec. 26. Credit: Marco Ugarte / Associated Press