Mexico Closes Giant Landfill, Aims to Make Waste Management System Green

Mexico closed one of the world's largest landfills this month, but it's not just going to stop accepting trash: The Mexico City government is looking to build a biogas plant to turn the methane produced by the waste in the dump into energy, as well as open a recycling plant to salvage some of the waste and find it a second life.

The Boston Globe reports that construction waste will be recycled into building material, and the BBC reports that a cement company has already agreed to buy 3,000 tons of dry waste a day to burn as fuel. There's also a composting plant for the organic waste.

The city says it is also negotiating with 1,500 pepenadores ("scavengers" or "waste pickers"): informal workers who play a key role, though unofficial, in Mexico's (and many other developing countries') waste management system.

The 927-acre landfill, Bordo Poniente, was collecting up to 12,000 tons of waste a day. Since its construction in 1985, it had collected a total more than 76 million tons of garbage.

A press release about the closure, which is a project undertaken by Mexico City in collaboration with the Clinton Climate Initiative Cities program and the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group:

Solid waste in landfills is the third largest source of anthropogenic methane emissions – 23 times more potent as a greenhouse gas agent than CO2. Capturing methane from the Bordo Poniente landfill could reduce GHG emissions from Mexico City by 25 million tons of CO2 equivalent over the next 25 years – more than one quarter of the city's total emissions. Globally, it represents one of the largest reductions of GHGs associated with solid waste management.

It is estimated that capturing methane from the Bordo Poniente Landfill could generate over 250 GWh or enough power for an estimated 35,000 homes in Mexico City during the first years of operation.

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