Mexico City is turning its trash into food. The government’s environmental agency recently launched the Mercado de Trueque, a barter market where recyclable materials are exchanged for fresh food to support the city’s farmlands.
"This innovative program is designed to show citizens directly and tangibly how what we call trash becomes raw materials. If solid waste is properly separated, it still has value," writes the Ministry of Environment (in Spanish). The market accepts glass, paper and cardboard, aluminum beverage cans, PET plastic bottles, and returns "green points" redeemable for agricultural products grown in and around Mexico City, including lettuce, prickly pears, spinach, tomatoes, plants, and flowers.
"The intention is to encourage and support the producers of soil conservation in order to raise public awareness of the local supply," writes the Ministry. "It’s important to consume local products to avoid large shipments of goods, reduce the carbon footprint, generate fair trade and maintain agricultural lands south of the city."
Collecting and sorting recyclables is already a big business in some developing countries, but it’s not a habit for many households. Drawing a direct link between sorting and exchanging waste and a sustainable food supply may bring a new awareness into the mix. The first market, held on one Sunday this March, sold out, exchanging nearly three tons of 60 agricultural products for trash.