Sustainable Strategies for Waste in Leon, MexicoAaron Redman & I have a research grant1)Supported by UNAM funding through PAPIIT  focused on understanding current household waste strategies and discovering opportunities for making the current system more sustainable. We began this research by contacting the city’s waste provider (SIAP) and asking for an interview with the director. The director of the municipal waste company was very forthcoming with the barriers to sustainable waste collection in Leon—for example, during the interview he noted that there is no transfer station that would enable them to separate and sort recycling, so the infrastructure for municipal-based recycling (what we have in the USA) is still at least a decade off. Currently, 100% of the garbage collected by SIAP goes to landfills.2)Some portion of this is being separated out by the garbage truck workers who sell the items for themselves. These numbers are completely un-tracked by anyone but something we hope to investigate down the road. The next thing we did was solicit help from our students in order to map the Centros de Acopios (privately-run recycling centers) in Leon. These small businesses (sometimes just someone's house) pay people for PET, aluminum, glass, paper, etc. (although most focus on only one or two materials). We currently have 75 of these Centros de Acopios mapped in the city of Leon.
Currently, we are conducting household surveys/interviews. We do the surveys/interviews as part of home visits in order to visually get a sense of the waste situation and opportunities for more sustainable options (e.g. is there space for compost or even a garden). This process is certainly slow but is also very fruitful. One of the reasons that household data collection is so difficult is because we want to speak to the heads of households (those that are in charge of the household waste) & the majority of those we have surveyed cannot read so we are gathering our quantitative data in a much more qualitative fashion. To date, we have finished 35 household visits and hope to complete another 20 in the near future. The overwhelming sense that we get is that everyone handles their waste differently. Unlike in the U.S. where most people put their recycling in a blue bin for curbside pick-up, in Leon, each household recycles different things, separates differently, and perceives the local recycling situation differently. Another interesting difference is that garbage pick-up is 5 to 7 days a week in all neighborhoods we have interviewed, creating a huge barrier to motivating houses to worry about waste reduction or efficiency.As we continue to investigate and reveal more of the situation and potential for Sustainable waste management in Leon, Mexico, we'll be update you here first at Achieving Sustainability.
Footnotes [ UNAM funding through PAPIIT 
2. ↑ Some portion of this is being separated out by the garbage truck workers who sell the items for themselves. These numbers are completely un-tracked by anyone but something we hope to investigate down the road.