Communities: Recycling is the Future

Communities: Recycling is the Future

Like many Americans, there is a sizable amount of Argentines who are extremely concerned about the well-being of the environment. In Buenos Aires, many groups are working to promote recycling among the city’s population.

How do nations meet their communities’ needs? 

Every nation has its problems, with Argentina being no different than any other. In order to solve national problems, most countries have concluded that is necessary for both the government and private organizations to work together. A good example of such work can be found right here in Argentina, where both the government and private organizations, like Greenpeace and Waste for Life, are promoting environmentally-friendly policies.

What community need did I learn about?

I have been investigating how Porteños are working to improve their country’s waste management system. According to government sources, the three million or so people who live in Buenos Aires proper (this excludes the nine million who live in the metropolitan area) throw away nearly 5,000 metric tons of trash per day. That equals about 1,100,000 pounds or about 40 school buses full of trash each day! How much trash does your city produce each day?

This is a big problem for a few reasons. Not only is that a terrible amount of waste, the city no longer has enough space for the trash. Many people have realized that much of this ‘trash’ is in fact paper, cardboard, plastic and glass that can easily be recycled. It has become clear not only to the city government, but to many of the people living here, that there is a need for better recycling practices.

Why does the community have this need? 

As I mentioned earlier, the overflowing of landfills has prompted the government to take action to promote recycling programs. This is due to the fact that much of the waste disposed in landfills can easily be recycled.

Another reason why the local community here needs to recycle is due the worldwide problem of global warming. In order to produce plastic, glass, and paper, fuel is used. This fuel emits greenhouse gases, like carbon dioxide and methane, which contribute to the trend of global warming. By increasing recycling, people from Buenos Aires to New York have the opportunity to shrink their carbon footprint, which in the process helps to reduce the disastrous effects of global warming and climate change.

Is this need being met? How?

While many parts of Buenos Aires lack cohesive recycling programs, both governmental and private organizations are promoting recycling among the city’s population.

Many recent moves have come as a result of the Basura Zero laws, or “Zero Trash” laws, that were passed by the Buenos Aires’ municipal government. The goals of these laws were not only to help clean up the city’s streets, but also to promote environmentally-friendly actions amongst the city’s people. Because of these efforts, there are now locations where Porteños (people from Buenos Aires) can go to ensure that their recyclable waste is not thrown in with the rest of their trash.

Most of these locations come in the form of large bins that are located throughout the city on the side of the road. They are often located next to public trash bins so that people can dispose of both trash and recyclables at the same time. One thing that is really neat about these bins is that they have foot pedals that open the lids of the bins so that people can throw out their trash without touching the actual bin. There is an internal mechanism inside the bins that helps to prevent the tops from slamming down, reducing the chance of injury (so that people’s fingers do not get smashed when the lids come down).

Another really interesting program that I learned about was started by students at a local school nearby where I live! In Argentina there are people called Carteneros, or trash pickers, that often go through trash that is destined for the landfills.  Carteneros look for things like plastic bottles and aluminum cans, which can be sold to recycling companies. My friend Martín and a few of his classmates set up a program at their school to work with trash pickers to promote recycling habits. In order to do this, they helped organize a program at their school that sorted out all the recyclable goods from the trash for the Carteneros. This saves the Carteneros time and gives them more material to trade in for money.

Businesses too have been working to reduce pollution. Most grocery stores charge between around 25 centavos (about 3 cents) for a plastic bag. While this may not seem like much, it definitely can add up over a long period of time. Therefore, many people bring their own cloth bags or reuse old plastic bags when going grocery shopping. Not only does this save both the consumer and the business money, but it also promotes environmentally sustainable habits that help reduce pollution.

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