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'Trash for food' at Mexico City barter market

By Rafael Romo, Senior Latin American Affairs Editor
updated 7:44 AM EDT, Tue June 19, 2012
Residents of Mexico City are embracing a creative recycling program that is turning trash into food. Residents of Mexico City are embracing a creative recycling program that is turning trash into food.
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Mercado de Trueque
Mexico City
Mexico City
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STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • New bartering scheme in Mexico City helping residents exchange trash for fresh food
  • The Mercado de Trueque encourages people to recycle paper, glass and plastic
  • In return, residents receive vouchers that are exchanged for produce at a farmers' market

Mexico City (CNN) -- A new barter market in Mexico City is helping residents trade their trash for food in an effort to reduce the mountain of waste produced by the mega city.

Mexico City's huge, infamous Bordo Poniente landfill site was receiving 12,600 tons of waste a day -- one and a quarter times the weight of the Eiffel Tower -- before it was shut down in December last year. But although the landfill is is no longer in operation, the city keeps churning out trash.

That's why the local government has launched several measures to reduce the waste created by the 20 million people who call the city home.

Trading waste for food

The Mercado de Trueque began in March this year and has proved an instant hit with residents.

Jose Luis Aranda is one of thousands of locals who are now making regular visits to the market held once a month in the city's Chapultepec Park. Along with his housemates, Aranda brings along glass, plastic and cardboard waste, which is separated and weighed. He is then given vouchers, which can be exchanged at a nearby farmers' market.

The vendors at the market hail from local farms, adding the benefit of attracting shoppers to locally produced food.

For Aranda, it's not just about buying vegetables to eat. He also picks up baby lettuce plants, which he plans to grow at home and sell at the market when he visits again.

If he does, it would bring the city's plan full circle, essentially turning trash into food.

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