Mexico City Shoppers Swap Trash for Fresh Food

© Secretaría del Medio Ambiente. Cashing in credits for food at the Mercado de Trueque.

The idea of trash as food may be a bit controversial (especially if you bring your dumpster-dived delicacies to a pot luck), but trading trash for food has proven wildly popular in Mexico City.

The sprawling city's 20 million residents generate some 12,600 metric tons of trash a day, a figure the government is keen to reduce, especially following the closure last year of the massive Bordo Poniente landfill. One of the solutions it has devised is a monthly barter market, the Mercado de Trueque, where people can swap recyclables for farm-fresh produce.

Trading Plastic For Produce
Participants who bring glass, plastic, aluminum, and paper and cardboard waste to the market, held in a centrally located park, receive "green points" good at a nearby farmers' market where the vendors are paid by the city and come from farms in the surrounding area, CNN reported last month. In addition to locally grown fruits and vegetables, people can also use their vouchers to buy seedlings so they can start growing their own food at home.

© Secretaría del Medio Ambiente. Residents earn market credits by collecting recyclables.

The concept was an immediate hit: According to Fast Company's innovation blog Co.Exist, the first market "sold out, exchanging nearly three tons of 60 agricultural products for trash."

"This innovative program is designed to show citizens directly and tangibly how what we call trash becomes raw materials," the Mexican environmental agency wrote on its website, according to a translation by Co.Exist, which added that the program creates a "direct link between sorting and exchanging waste and a sustainable food supply."

Tags: Farmers Markets | Local Food | Mexico | Recycling | Waste

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