Mexico City will close one of the world's largest garbage dumps by Dec. 31 and will instead turn the garbage from millions of people into reusable materials and energy, Mayor Marcelo Ebrard announced Monday.
Some 700 trucks that carry garbage to the Bordo Poniente will no longer be admitted as of Monday, and all operations will cease by the end of the year, Ebrard said.
Trucks will still enter the recycling separation plant and a composting plant already on the premises.
The city that once dumped 12,600 tons of garbage daily already has cut the amount in half this year through recycling and composting, said government undersecretary Juan Jose Garcia Ochoa.
The concrete giant Cemex SAB has agree to buy 3,000 tons daily to turn into energy, Garcia said. The city is seeking other landfills to dump the remaining garbage in smaller amounts while it institutes a new recycling program in the new year.
Built on a dry lake bed partly to handle the rubble from the devastating 1985 earthquake, Bordo Poniente has taken in more than 76 million tons of trash.
Closing the dump will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by a minimum of 2 million tons of carbon dioxide a year, according to the city government.
Ebrard said the city is implementing strict measures to stop illegal dumping at the site and to process materials into compost. It will also embark next year on a major project to harness the methane gas produced at the dump into energy, he said.
Ebrard said the city also plans to open a new plant to recycle construction waste into building material.
The Mexican capital itself has about 8.8 million residents, but its metropolitan area holds more than 20 million.
The city has been working for years to turn one of the planet's biggest and messiest waste management systems into the greenest, at least in Latin America.
Three years ago, the city recycled only 6 percent of its garbage. Today, that number is close to 60 percent, having grown substantially in the last year, Garcia said.
The city says it is also negotiating with 1,500 pepenadores, or scavengers, informal workers who traditionally have been a key part of Mexico's waste-management system. They living at dumps and scavenge and resell material.
Pablo Tellez Falcon, who heads the scavengers guild, said 300 of them worked at the Bordo Poniente landfill and that he will negotiate for a written agreement with the city government so they don't lose their livelihoods.
He said the city and the scavengers have only had a spoken agreement until now.