Bordo Poniente closure brings opportunities and challenges

Destination unknown
Destination unknown

As Mexico City residents slowly returned to work and normal life after the holidays, we discovered we had a garbage problem.  Not just the bags of empty liquor bottles by the door; a real problem for the whole city and surrounding State of Mexico.  The largest solid waste disposal facility used for city garbage was shut down in December, and suddenly the city’s sanitation department wasn’t sure what to do with the garbage.

The dump in question, called Bordo Poniente, was closed with great fanfare on December 19, 2011 after over 25 years of service.  In line with Mayor Marcelo Ebrard’s ongoing effort to implement ecologically friendly public policies, city agencies developed a plan to recycle the site’s estimated 70 million tons of garbage in a number of ways.  According to the plan, the city will issue a tender for private companies to compete for a contract under which the winner will partner with government agencies to build a plant to harvest biogas from the decomposing organic waste.  The gas will be used to generate electricity to help run city services, and/or be converted into fuels for other applications.  In addition to the large scale biogas project, plans also anticipate other uses for the various types of waste once separated, such as compressed blocks to be sold as industrial fuel, recycling of metals and plastics, production of compost from organic residuals and shredding of construction waste to create sand.  The objective is that between the composting of organic waste and recycling of reusable materials, the reduced volume of remaining garbage will be distributed among various smaller waste disposal sites around the greater metropolitan area.  After some 20 years of composting and recycling, the Bordo Poniente site is intended to be converted to green space.  Just the type of ambitious, long-term sustainability planning the city needs to develop and carry through to fruition.

So the future looks promising, but alas, the present is rocky.  Following closure of the Bordo dump, immediate plans to redistribute the city’s daily garbage hit a snag when some local communities organized to block the additional waste from entering their disposal facilities.  As garbage piled up, trucks began dumping the increasing backlog outside the separation centers, in underutilized areas of the Bordo Poniente area itself, and reportedly in irregular dumps elsewhere around the Federal District.  At this writing, the city’s Department of Public Works has admitted it has a thorny problem on its hands but insists a solution is in the works.  We’re hoping they find a way to fast-track that biogas plant.

Read about our participation in the Mexico Today program here.

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