Skip to comments.Litter choking streets throughout Mexico
Posted on 06/25/2007 8:27:31 AM PDT by SwinneySwitch
Activists say public isn't only culprit leaders and companies are also culpable
MEXICO CITY Mexicans have become world-class litterbugs.
Soft drink bottles, snack wrappers, used diapers and cigarette butts clog city streets, rural highways and scenic beaches. Mountains of garbage stand sentry-like in empty lots and at the edges of bucolic rural villages. Discarded plastic bags hang in trees and dangle from cactus like bitter industrial fruit.
Not every Mexican litters, of course. And perhaps no one does so all the time. But enough of them do, enough of the time, that this nation of 105 million people is choking on its refuse.
Yet, there has been no concerted long-term anti-litter campaign. Only a smattering of Mexican towns and cities have municipal garbage dumps.
For many environmentalists, litter takes a backseat to fouled water, dirty air, coastline overbuilding, widespread deforestation and severe soil erosion. To many citizens, litter is all but invisible. And in the view of some observers, there is a lack of public responsibility.
"People see it as a problem that doesn't affect them, but it does," said Francisco Padron, director of a Mexico City civic organization aimed at educating the public on environmental issues.
Consider just a few impacts:
Litter contributes to severe flooding in Mexico City every rainy season, which is beginning now, when discarded bottles and other trash clog storm drains. Each year the city government makes a plea to end the littering. And each year that plea is uniformly ignored. "Uncleanliness" primarily litter ranks first among the complaints of foreign tourists visiting Mexico, according to studies conducted by the Tourism Ministry. Haphazard roadside dumps serve as breeding grounds for mosquitoes, contributing to the outbreak of dengue fever and other diseases in rural southern villages. Environmentalists blame a lack of government programs and corporate interest for much of the problem.
Fines for littering are rare and even more rarely enforced. Few cities or towns bother to put trash cans in the streets. Even where public trash cans do exist, they're seldom emptied.
Mexican environmental officials say that only several dozen of Mexico's more than 2,500 cities, towns and villages have a landfill or other kind of municipal garbage dump.
"There is a lack of political will," said Jorge Trevino, director of ECOCE (Ecología y Compromiso Empresarial), an industry-funded group that manages recycling and public awareness campaigns. "There is a lack of infrastructure. In many cities, there is a lack of planning. There is nowhere to put the trash."
But there's also a lack of public concern or responsibility, Trevino and other activists say.
People tuck pop bottles into hedges, trees and lampposts. Schoolchildren drop snack packages wherever they please. Drivers of intercity buses instruct passengers to toss refuse out the windows rather than leave it aboard.
There's also little downside, either legal or social, for the litterers.
"In the United States, you have an authority that is watching. Here in Mexico, there is nothing like that," Trevino said. "If you throw trash on the highway here in Mexico, no one says anything."
Like many of its social problems, Mexico's litter epidemic may be anchored in a deeply entrenched political system in which citizen input has been discouraged.
Not 'their' problem Trash pickup in Mexico City and other urban centers has been free and largely controlled by labor unions, said Hector Castillo, a sociologist who studies the refuse industry at Mexico's National Autonomous University. Many Mexicans consider trash, including litter, to be somebody else's problem. "They throw trash in the street because that's why they pay taxes," Castillo said. "Somebody else picks it up."
Litter has become a global problem, of course. But societies like Mexico's, whose exploding and still-poor populations crowd into cities and consume packaged food rather than what they produce themselves, suffer the most from it.
"There has been a more dramatic change in the types of waste we are producing than in the culture of disposing of that waste," said Padron, the Mexico City environmentalist. "Trash has been seen only as waste and not as valuable material that can be recycled."
Padron and other activists say corporations have an obligation to figure out how to dispose of packaging.
"In a responsible economy, they have the responsibility for what happens to their wastes," Padron said.
Mexico has yet to experience a watershed moment that brings litter to the forefront of public consciousness, environmentalists say. And anti-litter efforts must be intense, sustained and widespread to be effective. Even then, there are no guarantees.
Don't Mess With Mexico The Don't Mess With Texas campaign, run by the state's Department of Transportation, is considered one of the more successful in the United States. Texas officials say the amount of litter has been reduced by as much as a third since the start of this decade. Still, telephone surveys indicate that as many as 77 percent of Texans under the age of 25 admit to littering, and 55 percent of all Texans say they do.
ECOCE, Trevino's organization, began a television ad campaign several years ago aimed at shaming the public into taking care of trash.
Dubbed "no manches," which can loosely translate to "don't mess with," the effort featured children chastising people for tossing trash.
The ads, which had little apparent impact on public actions, have been discontinued for other campaigns.
"The trouble is, we're the only ones doing this sort of thing," Trevino said.
Still, there are some hopeful signs in Mexico.
A tiny market for recycled plastic bottles is growing, with most of the recovered plastic shipped to the United States and China for further processing.
Two years ago, ecotourism guides and a television network raised a ruckus about the trash clogging the Grijalva River inside the stunning Sumidero Canyon of the southernmost state of Chiapas.
Local, state and federal officials mobilized an army of workers to clean up the mess. More than 1,200 tons of garbage were collected from the narrow gorge in a few weeks. The officials claimed victory.
Today, news reports portray the river through the canyon as trashed out as ever.
"It's a war without end," said Marlene Ehrenberg, the Mexico City tour guide and environmentalist who first raised the alarm about the Sumidero.
"I'm so tired and fed up," she said.
This may have something to do with the problem.
Welcome to my front yard.
Many Mexicans consider trash, including litter, to be somebody else's problem...
Mine, for instance.
Still, there are some hopeful signs in Mexico.
Yeah, millions of these trash loving fools have left Mexico and are residing here.
Get used to it in this country. Also, pigs roasting over a pit in the front yards of houses containing 20+ little brown people, with low-riders parked in the front yard.
“Mexico has always been like that. Not new news.”
Before the era of prepackaged food, no place was like that. As recently as 20 years ago, Mexico had no littering problem because most people still ate fresh foods purchased at farmers markets rather than packaged food from supermarkets.
I say we just declare a new “Mexican-US” War and take back what Mexico owes us though their invasions by looting Mexico City, and their oil-rich reserves!! What do you say..Anyone with me..or am I out of touch..
Should there be a new Mexican-US War?
I was going to say, "Hey, I've seen that too!", then saw who had posted it, and realized I saw it with you. LOL!
And both indicators are ingrained in Mexican culture!
And both indicators are ingrained in Mexican culture!
When I was a kid that was considered on one of the sights to see on a drive through San Fernando -- diapers dropped along the street curbs. I suspect (having been gone 12 years now) that all of Los Angeles looks that way.
Thinkj of what would occur if just one of the do-gooder eco foundations bought trash by the pound.
It is a rare day when I don’t see someone beer can fishing along side a road.
It’s not just a Mexican culture thing. When we visited Israel, it was easy to tell the Jewish areas vs. the Arab ones. The Arabs had mountians of trash piled around
They don’t give a crap about their own country but they want to take over ours.
You outta go into a high rise condo under construction here in Florida sometime. They all have around an 80% mexican construction workers. The buildings smell unbelievably bad.
You won’t find a single cabinet, kitchen or bath that won’t have an old soda or water bottle full of piss and the bathtubs get crapped in.
Also add to the fact that thier excrement is inherently nasty due to the foods they eat.
Never been to a third world country? Stick around, it’s coming here soon enough.
Well, you know, I really do hate to say it ‘cause it sounds like I’m being a racist and a nativist, but...
...these folks are mighty sloppy.
At a recent Hispanic celebration in Alexandria, Virginia, the streets were literally(and I mean “literally”) awash in litter. The whole thing was disgusting.
I was amazed at the trash! In the little town of San Felipe the little houses (shacks) all had neat little ocatillo fences and tidy swept yards. Many had fresh laundry drying on said ocatillo fence.
But outside of town. And I mean right on the first empty lots were piles of garbage. The constant wind blew it farther and farther into the surrounding desert. It was everywhere. Hanging on bushes, blowing across the roads and in piles and piles. Evidently the idea of a municiple dump or a place where everyone dumped was incomprehensable to the townsfolk.
I noticed the dried and scavaged corpse of some large animal. I was told that it was a very pretty little colt that had been wandering in the desert. People would do that is they coundn’t afford to feed an animal. Just turn it out to fend for its self. Well this little guy couldn’t make and became weaker and weaker. No one would do anything for it because when it grew up the original owner could come and take it back. So it was left to die by the side of the road. Disgusting.
One day 10 years later people were complaining bitterly about the poor fishing on the beaches. Why I asked. A local told me it was because of all the “greengos” who come down to fish on the beach. I guess that that was a much greater threat to the local fishery than the gill netters trolling up and down the coast 24/7 or the dynamite fishing. The dynamite fishing was illegal by then, but people still did it we were told because all the old greengoes and their fishing polls had caught all the fish (from the shore).
And Bush wants us to turn our country over to these people.
Do Mexican illegal aliens leave their littering ways behind once they (illegally) cross the US border?
Why would you want them to bring that nasty habit into the USA?
Why do you defend someone (Jorge W. Arbusto) who does?
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