How you dispose of your household waste and separate materials for recycling will depend on where you live in Mexico. This article describes the various ways to manage your waste, materials recycling, food composting, and they ways in which waste collection is typically paid for.
General waste collection in Mexico
In most locations, your general waste will be collected in one of two ways, and some municipalities also run a separate recycling collection scheme. All towns and cities across Mexico have a formal waste collection scheme in operation, with waste disposal trucks making their rounds at least once a week.
Waste collection by truck
General waste is collected by trucks, usually (but not always) the type with a compactor that crushes all the waste placed into the back of the truck by the operators accompanying the vehicle. These trucks will:
- collect general household waste from garbage bins or bags left outside your home, or
- in some neighborhoods waste bags or bins are set out on the nearest street corner from where they are collected by the waste collection truck team during the course of the day; and
- some gated communities and condo developments have a dedicated waste and recycling collection area, and the waste collection truck will empty this on its round.
Collection frequency: Larger cities may have daily waste collection rounds, but in most places waste collection rounds tend to operate two or three days a week. In small towns and villages waste collection rounds happen once a week.
Collection in your area: Schedules and frequency of collection rounds vary by location and neighborhood. If you are new to the area, ask a neighbor about waste collection arrangements, or check to see what days others put out their waste bins or bags for collection.
Community waste bins and dumpsters
In some cities and neighborhoods, instead of putting out your waste in bags or bins outside your home (or on a street corner) you will see, dotted around, a series of community waste bins or dumpsters which are emptied regularly by the local waste collection trucks.
- These fixed bins/dumpsters are usually situated on street corners every couple of blocks in residential neighborhoods.
- Some gated communities and condos might operate a similar arrangement, with a dumpster near the entrance or just outside the complex.
- The type varies: they might be metal bins, barrels or larger ‘dumpster-like’ metal crates that have a hook which the waste collection truck uses to lift and empty them.
- If this type of waste collection is operating in your area, you can take your general household waste there at anytime, where it remains for a while until the waste delivery truck calls by—which might be daily, several times a week, and at least once a week.
Recyclable materials in your waste
Some municipalities in Mexico operate a dual-waste collection regime, with trucks that collect general household waste, and other trucks that collect materials that are recyclable. In some areas, collection days alternative between the two types of waste collection.
Separating recyclable waste
You ought to separate cardboard and magazines and any items which are not general household waste, for example: metalwork, old pipes, old brickwork, electrical items, old computers, monitors, glass. etc. even if the municipality where you live doesn’t operate a recycling regime that’s separate to general waste collection.
Formal waste recycling schemes are becoming more widespread across towns and cities in Mexico. An increasing number of municipalities across the country now operate materials recycling collection trucks, in addition to the general waste collection truck rounds.
If the municipality where your home is situated runs a materials recycling collection scheme (check locally to find out what day, or days, it collects) you ought to always keep the items listed below separate from your general waste to be collected by the recycling truck:
- Glass bottles and jars, metal lids off, placed with the metals, and vessels cleaned.
- Plastic bottles and other plastic containers, rinsed out.
- Metal tins, cans, rinsed out; aluminum foil (cleaned); as well as any other metal materials for disposal (old pipes, etc.)
- Paper, magazines and cardboard, as well as clean packaging (boxes, etc.) broken down flat.
- Some (but not many) municipalities also take food scrap waste for composting, separate to recyclable waste—see the next section for more details about this.
Private streets and gated communities: These usually have a separate recycling collection area, that’s an integral part of their waste collection scheme, where residents can place their recyclables into separate bins. If the local municipality runs a dedicated recycling truck round, that truck will collect from this area; if it doesn’t the Home Owners Association may arrange with a local materials recycling firm to collect recyclable materials periodically.
No recycling truck? In some areas where there is no separate recycling truck, you still ought to separate the recyclable items listed above from your general waste, as these materials might be kept separate by the waste collection team who will recycle them. Otherwise inquire locally about waste recycling firms that might collect recyclable waste from your home, or from several homes if you organize this with your neighbors.
Recycling your spent batteries in Mexico
When your batteries wear out, don’t toss them into your general waste as they will become compacted and sent to landfill where they will leak and become toxic contaminators in the ground.
Keep all your spent batteries separate and take them to a recycling collection point in the town or city where you live. Many local supermarkets, homeware and hardware stores, as well as some convenience stores operate battery recycling stations.
Composting biodegradable waste
In addition to separating your home’s general waste from recyclable materials, you may consider separating food scraps and waste to convert them into compost.
- If you have a home with a garden in Mexico, recycling your home’s food waste is an excellent way to create a rich compost for your soil and plant pots.
- It’s simple to do—simply keep a separate small bin (with or without a compostable bag inside) and place your food scraps into there instead of into your general waste.
- You can purchase food composters to keep in your garden, patio or yard that can help you create home compost using food scraps.
Food scraps collection: Some municipalities operate a food scraps collection service. If yours does, you can put out food scraps in compostable bags for collection on the designated day(s). This is helpful if you live in a smaller home or apartment in an urban area and don’t have a garden or sufficient space to operate a home composter bin.
Collection of old appliances and homewares
If you have old appliances (e.g., a washing machine) or homewares (e.g., an old mattress) you want to dispose of, some waste collection trucks might take these for recycling by prior arrangement. (It’s appropriate to pay them a tip if they do this.)
More commonly, you will discover that your neighborhood is probably served by a mobile “iron monger” or as they were termed many years ago, a “rag and bone collector.”
These service providers drive around in small trucks and advertise their presence on your street using a loudspeaker declaring that they will buy metal, ironwork, appliances, and other homewares you don’t need—including mattresses. Some of these collectors also take old car batteries.
The sum of the money they offer is usually a token and you might simply gift the item(s) to them; the valuable service they offer is to take old items away from your home to strip them down and recycle every usable part without you having to make any other arrangements, or even pay for this to be undertaken for you.
Paying for waste collection in Mexico
Payment for household waste collection varies by municipality and locale. You need check locally for details, although typically one of the following will apply:
- The scheme is paid for by the local municipality using public funds and there might or might not be a modest fee per collection or per bag/bin. (MXN$5 to MXN$10 pesos per bag/bin is common; or a fixed fee, for example $20 pesos per collection, with an extra payment for ‘excess’ waste on any particular round.)
- In the case of closed-off (private) streets and gated communities, a local arrangement might be in place whereby the waste collectors are paid a sum for each collection, using Home Owner Association funds.
- In the cases where an official fee per item/collection doesn’t exist and the waste collection truck travels down your street collecting bags and its team emptying bins, it’s appropriate to pay a tip. The tip might be per collection, or you might pay them once a month, as you prefer.
- Regardless of what payment scheme may be in place at your locale, it’s appropriate to pay a Christmas bonus tip to the people who collect your waste throughout the year.
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