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Mexico City program exchanges trash for food

Eleven-year-old Urile Matla is the last in line at Mexico City’s innovative barter market. He has 20 bags of plastic bottles from his family street vendor business and is thrilled that he can exchange these bottles for food.

“I see kids who just leave their trash on the streets, we recycle this to help the environment and also because we get produce and tortillas that helps our family eat,” Matla said.

In 2011, the city’s huge Bordo Poniente landfill site, which received over 12,000 tons of waste per day, was closed, prompting the local government to launch several measures to reduce the waste problem.

One year later, Mercado de Trueque opened allowing people to trade their trash for food. People can bring anything from old TV’s, plastic cans and bottles in exchange for locally produced food.

The program has been success. People wait in line as long as three hours to trade their trash for fresh food.

According to the city government, 1,400 pounds of trash were recycled in 2015. But this a small amount compared to the 86 tons that the whole city generates per day.

Oscar Accedes, a volunteer and environmental activist believes that while this program is admirable, Mexico City needs to institute a recycling plan for the whole city.

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“There are many ways to solve these environmental problems,” Accedes said. “This is one of them. But I believe that government policy is the most effective way to tackle these problems. Not just debate it, but actually putting it into effect.”

While Mexico City has yet to institute a recycling citywide, the success of the barter program shows there is a hunger and a demand from its citizens for a cleaner future.

Video and news by CCTV America