Mexico City - Barter Market


In March 2012, Mexico City’s administration initiated a barter market project to trade clean and separated household solid waste recyclables for locally produced agricultural products. The overall objective of the barter market is to build an educational program promoting a culture of recycling and local consumption among the population of Mexico City. There was a definite need for this kind of action. With about 12,500 tons of municipal solid waste generated per day ending up in landfills, the City created the barter market to explore sustainable alternatives to landfilling, as well as develop and maintain a culture of waste minimization and recycling. Additionally, there is a growing need to provide support to local producers and traditional forms of agriculture in the rural areas of Mexico City.


The barter market takes place once a month on a Sunday morning in public places such as parks or plazas. The market is itinerant in order to gradually cover the different boroughs of Mexico City. Each citizen can trade up to 10 kilograms of waste per market day in one or more category of valuable recyclable, which currently includes paper, cardboard, PET, glass, tetra-pack, aluminum and tin cans and electronic waste. The agricultural products traded are grown by local producers in the rural areas of Mexico City and range from fruits and vegetables, to plants and homemade jams. The barter market has developed strategic partnerships with 80 local producers and several recycling companies that are responsible for collecting the waste gathered during the event and transporting it to recycling facilities.

Although the project does not include major recycling targets or CO2 emissions reduction projections, it has yielded significant results on a small scale. In 2013,12 editions of the barter market were conducted (one every month), with nearly 20,000 citizens trading their recyclable solid waste, adding upto approximately 151,000 tons of material across all categories.

Projected Outcomes

The main environmental goal of this project is to divert valuable recyclable waste from final disposal in landfills, but it is also expected to bring significant co-benefits:

  • Health benefits: the products traded at barter markets are good quality and contribute to the fight against malnutrition, a recurrent health issue in Mexico.
  • Economic and social benefits: The market not only benefits local agricultural producers, who receive subsidies from the City in the trading process, it also benefits the private waste industry by generating jobs in recollecting and reusing valuable recyclables traded on market days.