Posts by Leonardo Varela - Mexico City

In Mexico, recycling at bus stations earns a discount on public transport

UNAM Foundation

Mexico is said to be the largest consumer of bottled drinks in the world. Its population of 120 million uses an average of five bottles per capita a day, with consumption totaling around 800,000 tons a year, a number that’s growing by 13 percent annually. This massive amount of plastic comprises 30 percent of the country’s municipal solid waste. Meanwhile, with a large proportion of its population under the poverty line, Mexico is also a country with substantial subsidies for public transportation.

So a new partnership between the UNAM Foundation and Heng Plastic Enterprises (which specializes in solid waste recovery and recycling) is both smart and efficient. Recycling machines installed in bus stations accept PET (plastic) bottles and aluminum cans in exchange for points that can be used for public transportation. In the recent past, similar machines have been installed in Beijing and beyond, providing economic incentives for busy commuters to recycle and a new type of transport subsidy that benefits the common good. One problem, perhaps, is that consumers aren’t motivated to reduce their overall use of plastic.

Photo Credit: UNAM Foundation