A Very Trashy Article

Burning garbage is not the answer

Expats who have been here for a while, or anybody that’s spent some time in a third world country, know that burning trash is just part of how things are done in certain parts of the world.
This is not an ideal solution. The garbage we throw away can be toxic – mostly due to plastics – making the smoke created by burning this garbage toxic as well. And as communities grow, what started as a small dump site can quickly turn into an unmanageable pile of trash that gets burned on a regular basis.

That’s what has happened in the Todos Santos/Pescadero area. The dump is located between these two towns, and the smoke billows in a volcanic-like cloud almost daily, especially during the winter tourist season.

There is an area designated for a landfill, located about four miles east of the highway, down an unpaved, washboard road. It’s basically just a large, dug out pit, but there is a little guardhouse that indicates it’s supposed to be somewhat official. What’s missing is any guidance for the locals as to where exactly they should be dumping their trash. Maybe it’s not their fault, but they’re not going anywhere near the pit. Maybe the garbage trucks missed a turn, and everybody followed.

The only empty desert ground is in the middle of that pit and you can't get to it because everybody is dumping their trash among the surrounding cacti in all four directions, like some kind of religious ritual.

Also missing is the necessary heavy equipment needed to turn a dump into a landfill. Compacting garbage with a bulldozer significantly reduces its volume, and then covering it with dirt gives you a manageable way of dealing with a lot of trash. But, things being as they are here, not everything that's needed is available, so the garbage gets burned even though that’s illegal in Mexico. Also, decomposing garbage frequently bursts into fire all by itself.

Local expats are fed up with the whole situation and have started a grassroots movement to change it. They’ve created a Facebook group called Trash Problems Todos Santos/Pescadero, and 20 or so residents recently met to discuss the issue and what they’re going to do about it.

One of the first things the group plans to do is have Alma Perez, the sub-delegate from Pescadero, contact the necessary officials to set up a community meeting where residents can voice their concerns and request an official landfill for the communities.
Education and community outreach will also be a main focus for the group, as well as starting initiatives to reduce the amount of plastic that gets thrown away.

You can find more information on trash and recycling options in the Todos Santos and Pescadero areas, and learn about future meetings, by joining the Facebook group (just search for Trash Problems Todos Santos/Pescadero).

Maybe these folks should talk to those living in the Zacatitos area, because they’ve been facing the same problem for years. They too, tried to get the government to do something, and they failed. The problem is, it is very, very difficult to snuff out a dump fire. A dump fire will smolder literally for years, and it takes special knowledge and equipment to extinguish.    ,