Mercado de Trueque (Barter Market) – Reference for the project (Phase 3a)



Secretaría del Medio Ambiente del Gobierno del Distrito Federal







For two years in Mexico City is held an inorganic domestic waste exchange market promoted by the Environment Ministry of the Federal District.

The Mercado de Trueque (Barter Market) is an activity developed monthly in Mexico D.F. where recyclable waste is changed for agricultural products produced in the city surroundings.

The main objective of the Barter Market is the raising-awareness of a part of the citizens through the establishment of an incentives system that benefit both the citizens and traders, generating a recycling consciousness-raising.

The Market is developed in different locations in the city and attracts more than 2.000 people monthly that exchange an average of around 15 tones of waste each edition.

Nowadays the type of waste collected has risen and are working in create new formats that makes the activity more attractive.







The Barter Market is an activity developed in Mexico City, a city that has between 10 and 40 million inhabitants according to the consulted sources that takes up a surface of almost 1.500 squared kilometres.

It is set as an itinerant market with a principal place in the Chapultepec Forest, where the Market is carry out once each two months and the month between them is moved to other locations in the city as the Delegations Miguel Hidalgo, Cuauhtémoc and Benito Juarez, the San Juan de Aragón Forest, the Olympic villa in Tlalpan or the Coyotes Zoo. For the following editions new locations are being plan in order to extend the activity to a larger part of the city. Therefore is established a reference point for the inhabitants used to carry their waste to the principal place but the proposal is also brought to the people that live in distant areas.

plano mexico acabado


To decide the areas where develop the market they look for open and flat spaces where the elements that are necessary could be installed for the development of the activity and could take in the high number of people that participate in it. Also should be spaces with good urban connections and related with nature as big parks as the Chapultepec or Tlalpan Forests.



On the same way they look for a location in representative spaces that the citizenship could recognise as the spaces near the municipal offices (“delegaciones”) that in Mexico are the political and administrative circumscriptions in the city and also the buildings they are occupying.



Population Involved (Characteristics)


The Barter Market is an activity open to all the inhabitants of Mexico D.F. but overall is focussed to the middle and worker classes in order to generate in them a recycling culture.

After more than two years of the program development around 2.000 people participate each edition, mainly composed by young families with children (30-50 years old).

Besides the users, there are also implicated the farmers of the south of the metropolitan area (that is the poorest area in the city) and volunteers that participate in the organization of the activity.



Existing Controversies


According their website: “Daily in Mexico City and their surrounding areas is generated more than 12.000 tones of waste, and a lot of them are reusable o recyclable and they still have a great commercial value as row material to elaborate new products”.


plantilla (2)


Mexico Federal District is the capital and the headquarters of the federal government of United Mexican States. In the population census of 2010 there are 10.350.955 inhabitants registered in the city, but estimation of the UN and other entities establish a population of more than 40 million inhabitants. Due to the urban agglomeration that this datum imply the waste management turns into a big problem to solve daily in the city.

If 12.000 tones produced every day turns into a big management problem, the situation aggravates in a place where the recycling culture is not something usual.

Mexico City is a place where the recycling culture is poor. On one hand there are not many separative waste collection points, but from the Environmental Education Secretary is justified telling that situate more could generate a bigger problem due to there is an important number of people that collect trash in the street and sold it to waste treatment plants for living.

On the other hand we have to add that between 2011 and 2012 the biggest outdoors garbage dump in the world (Bordo Poniente) closed. It occupy an area of 450 ha, that it’s estimated contains more than 80 million tones of rubbish. In the dump worked officially 1.500 people, but other 4.500 more worked there collecting trash and separating it.


Bordo Poniente (4) v2


The dump closure was promoted by the Urban Management Agency of Mexico City, that, at the same time, manage the construction of the biggest composting plant in the world (that occupy a surface of 30 ha and could process up to 3.000 tones of waste every day) to avoid the blockade of the waste collecting service.

Besides this infrastructure, it was necessary a big consciousness raising campaign with the name “Vamos a Separar” (We are going to separate” that has got increased from the 5% to the 85% the separating rate of the housing waste in Mexico City in two years.

In this context are framed the projects that compose the Plan Verde (Green Plan), that integrates, among others, the “Mercado de Trueque”; in order to improve the Mexico D.F. citizens life by establishing a work plan for 15 years that guide the city to a sustainable development.


Previous Experiences

There are some experiences related with the exchange of trash by food, mainly in South America, but the program Cambio Verde (Green Change) developed in the city of Curitiba, in Brazil, was the project that trigged off the development of the “Mercado de Trueque”; as the Environment Ministry, Martha Delgado, said in the inauguration of the first edition when she exposed that the project was developed after the visit to the Paraná’s State capital of two civil servants of the Mexican government.



The “Cambio Verde”  is a project that appear in 1989 from the program “Basura que no es basura” (Trash that is not trash), in order to help minor farmers to commercialize their crops and spread the importance of the value of the urban solid waste if there is separated correctly.

There is an exchange program similar to the “Mercado de Trueque” in wich the kilograms of recyclable material are changed by their proportional corresponding part of agricultural products that include fruits, vegetables and seed for the own farming. In the selected dates, the barter changes and, for example, in Christmas or in the Children’s day instead of agricultural products what is offered are toys or school materials.

The initiative as well as in Mexico has been extended to other cities of Brazil, with variations as, for example, discounts in the electricity bill in regions where farming suppose a problem.



Involved Agents

–       Secretaría de Medio Ambiente del Gobierno del Distrito Federal.

(Environment Ministry of the Federal District Government)


There is the entity in charge of the development and management of the project. Is the control organization of environmental aspects as: air quality and climate change, sustainable mobility, land’s conservation and biodiversity, green urban infrastructure, water quality and supply and environmental education and communication. This last one is related with the project of the “Mercado de Trueque”.


–       Tierra Nueva (Farmers Cooperative)

The farmers cooperative provide the ecological products that are changed in the “Mercado de Trueque”. They are set in the Southeast areas of the Federal District, gathering the agricultural delegations of Xochimilac, Milpa Alta y Tláhuac.


–       Barter Market Workers (Public Employees and Volunteers)

Coordinated by the Environment Ministry they organize the barter activity, they are in charge of the selection and weight of the waste and exchange them by green points, as well as the organization of the waste once they are delivered in order they could be carried to the treatment plants.


–       Market Traders

They are in charge of the Exchange and sale of the products that came from the lake area of the Federal District. They change the ecological products that the farmers take for green points.


–       Cooker

Each market Sunday a chef offer free public cooking lessons in the Mercado de Trueque using the products that the users could acquire there showing to the general public different ways to cook with fruits and vegetables.


–       Citizens

Users of the “Mercado de Trueque”, their task consist in gather the interchangeable waste and clean them according to the rules that are established for their participation in the activity and bring them the specified day to the market in order to change them for green points that they could use to purchase the farming products.


–       Recycling Companies

They receive and buy the waste that are collected in the market to the organization for their following recycling or transform them in derivative products.



Plan Verde Ciudad de Mexico


The Plan Verde (Green Plan) of Mexico City structure a set of projects that establishes the strategies and actions destined to get a sustainable city in a period of 15 years.




Plan Verde


The “Plan Verde” is structured in 7 thematic main ideas that together establish the plan destined to put brake on the environmental crisis in which the city is involved. Each theme topic set a series of strategies that are developed by specific actions:


–       Land’s Preservation _ Rescue the land that is susceptible of being conserved as a crucial space for the ecological balance of the city.

o   Strategy 1. – Contention of the urban growth and recuperation of the spaces occupied by irregular settlements in the land to preserve.

o   Strategy 2. – Restoration and conservation of the ecosystems in the land to preserve.

o   Strategy 3. – Payment for the services and environmental properties as a mechanism to compensate for the costs of the preservation.

o   Strategy 4. – Foment of the agricultural ecosystems and sustainable management of the natural sources.


–       Habitability and Public Space _ Rescue and create public spaces, in order to transform the city in a social integration space that offer a better habitability, comfort and equity.

o   Strategy 1. – Development of organizing projects with large public spaces, designed with sustainability and habitability criteria.

o   Strategy 2. – Housing development foment and sustainable buildings.

o   Strategy 3. – Rescue and consolidation of the existent public spaces in the Integration Corridors and development with leisure and environmental vocations.

o   Strategy 4. – Increasing of the green areas and create infrastructures, urban furniture and accessibility elements for the public spaces.



–       Water _ Achieve the comprehensive management of the water in the Federal District.

o   Strategy 1. – Reach the aquiferous balance.

o   Strategy 2. – Reduce the consumption of potable water.

o   Strategy 3. – Reduce the water leaks.

o   Strategy 4. – Increasing of the reuse and water treatment.


–       Mobilty _ Recover the roadways for the efficient collective transport, less contaminant and more quality and promote the non-motorized mobility.

o   Strategy 1. – Creating privileges for the community and efficient transport, non-contaminant, of quality and recover the use of the streets for them.

o   Strategy 2. – Reduce the number of vehicles in circulation

o   Strategy 3. – Foment the non-motorized mobility

o   Strategy 4. – Sharpen the streets mobility.

o   Strategy 5. – Strenght of the             road culture for a more armonic coexistence.


–       Air _ Control the atmospheric contaminants that have more presence and affect more the health of the population (ozone an fine particles) and consolidate the reduction of the emissions of the toxic contaminants.

o   Strategy 1. – Reduce the contaminants’ emissions.

o   Strategy 2. – Increasing in the efficiency passenger/transported load.

o   Strategy 3. – Improve the measure and modelling of the air quality.


–       Solid Waste _ Implement an integral and sustainable system of the urban solid waste management

o   Strategy 1. – Strength the integral management tool of the solid waste.

o   Strategy 2. – Strength the separation and trash recycling program from its origin, in the houses, commercial and services establishments, and industries.

o   Strategy 3. – Create and promote the opportunities of the market in order to increase the exploitation of the recycled materials.

o   Strategy 4. – Modernize the collecting, transfer, treatment and final waste disposition methods and exploitation of the biogas


–       Climate Change and Energy _ Reduce the emissions of the greenhouse effect gases, foment and strengthen the renewable energies market and realize action to adapt the population for the climate change.

o   Strategy 1. – Carry out with actions that reduce the emissions of the gases that produce the greenhouse effect.

o   Strategy 2. – Reduce the vulnerability of Mexico City in front of the climatic change and have resources of adaptation for the population in general.

o   Strategy 3. – Foment communication actions and education for the Climate Change.




For the monitoring and evaluation of the “Plan Verde”, it has been set a “Council of Evaluation and Monitoring”, composed by 23 specialists and personalities in environmental themes, that know and feed back the derivative works of the “Plan Verde”.

The “Mercado de Trueque” is one of the actions destined to get one of the strategies related with the waste management in Mexico City but just have sense integrated in the whole plan; otherwise it could be just an anecdotic initiative.






Project Phases


  1. Project Design, Organization & Advertising.

The first step is to create the infrastructure necessary to the activity development. Establish the strategies that should be accomplished and coordinate the different agents that takes part into the project, as well as the different locations that host the event. Also it is necessary to start an informative campaign in order to let the citizens know the project that will be developed following.



  1. Control & Management of the local agriculture that participate in the project.

In order to guarantee the quality of the products that will be sold in the “Mercado de Trueque” is necessary to establish a control organism that assure the ecological character that is set for the different products carried there.

In the same way the farmers involved in the projects were coordinated through the cooperative “Tierra Nueva” that manage the agricultural regions of Xochimilco, Tláhuac y Milpa Alta, among others to encourage the local commerce and help in the strategy of conservation of the farming land.


o   Agricultural Products

“The agricultural producers offer more than 60 products that come from the “ejidos” (shared farming lands) of San Luis, San Gregorio, San Pedro Atocpan, the milk ara of Milpa Alta and Xochimilco, the products are vegetables, moles, cheeses, ornament plants, seeds, aromatic plants, and tipycal candy”.



With them there is looking for make aware the population about the local products they could find and collaborate in the generation of a healthy diet for the users.


  1. Exchange Days

Every second Sunday of the month is developed the “Mercado de Trueque” in the different locations and with the explained conditions.



The activity starts at 8.00 in the morning and finish around 14.00 or when the daily stock has finished. During this period the exchanges are carried out, changing trash for eating products.




The exchange process is divided in some phases that finish with the purchase of the agricultural products by using the green points acquired previously in exchange for the waste delivered.


  1. Economical Management

The trash exchange does not produce in the user a direct economic benefit. The rubbish is weighed and depending on the type of waste is changed by green points that there could be used for buying food; also this green points could be used just the day when the trash is delivered.



From the waste sales to the treatment plants the organization obtain between 40.000 and 50.000 Mexican pesos, what represent approximately the 20% of the real value of the agricultural products; the 80% that left is paid in by the government and the total amount is given to the producers and sellers for their work.




During the market the traders just receive green points, no money, but they do not loose money because the government with the benefits of the previous events does the payment for their products before the market starts.


  1. Waste Management

When they arrived to the “Mercado de Trueque”, the users pass by a fist filter where there are established the products that are exchangeable and which not according to the rules that are set in order to make easier the following recycling.



After passing this filter there is preceded to the weighed of the exchangeable products. In order to make easier this task is established a minimum of 1 kilogram or waste to change and a maximum of 10kg that depending on the type of waste provide more or less green points according to the value that the organization had fix that day (this value depends on the real value of the products that the recycling company will pay for the waste). According to the consulted sources: “Per each kilogram of paper and cardboard are given 13 points to the citizen; for the glass, three; for aluminium cans, 16; for cartons, 15 and for PET, 30” (This information talks about one specific day but could offer an approach of the number of points that provide each type of waste). There is set also a limit of 200 green points per person each day.

Once the waste is exchanged, there is transported to different treatment plants in order to process and convert them another time in raw materials.




Products (Recyclable Waste)


The exchangeable products were, in the beginning: paper & cardboard, glass, PET packages, aluminium cans, and cartons. But from 2013 there were starting to pick up also small electrical appliance. Besides them, they receive housing used oil, but this one there is not changed by green points.





There only could be exchanged this type of waste and always if there are in the cleanliness and packaging conditions that the organization define in order to make easier their storage, transport and following recycling (for example the milk and juices cartons should be delivered cleaned, caped and flatten in order they occupy the less space as there is possible).


Accomplished Strategies

The generation of citizens conscience related to the recycling culture is the main objective of the project and to get it there are set a series of strategies destined to reach it.


Strategy 01 _ Recycling Encourgaging (Environmental + Cultural + Social)

The recycling encouragement turns into the main strategy in the proposal of the “Mercado de Trueque” and there is set through the establishment of a series of benefits destined to their different users. This is traduced in around 150 tones of waste collected per year by a media of more than 2.000 people every Sunday.


Beneficios Medioambientales 2013


Following all the previously described process there is looking for generating a recycling culture almost inexistent in Mexico City. In this way there is developing the “Mercado de Trueque” activity as a way to get it mainly through creating aware by using strategies as giving free reusable bags to use in the market and reducing the usage of plastic bags.




Strategy 02 _ Healthy Culture Development (Environmental + Cultural + Social)

There is also a search for develop a healthy culture by including this type of ecological products and encouraging the citizenship to the consumption of vegetables.

In this way all the market editions there is a cooker that offer free cooking lessons for the people that participate in the activity, this chef tries to show different ways to cook by using the products that the users could acquire in the market offering with his work additional cultural values to the project.


Strategy 03 _ Economical & General Management (Economical)

The economical strategy is based in offer the people that is going to change their trash a higher benefit than what they obtain by selling the waste directly to the treatment plants.




As it has been said, in Mexico City there is a part of the population that works in collecting and selling the waste. In this way there is proposed an alternative to that activity by opening the market to the whole population and traducing it in economical benefits for them.

In order to create an acceptable economical development the waste is sold after being collected and also there is set a system in which the volunteers perform a very important role in the activity development.


Strategy 04 _ Reference network (Social + Cultural)

The fourth strategy is to create a network in which there is developing some activities that the citizens have in mind. In this way they will have a reference when they think about getting rid off about their waste but also as reference of the spaces where there are developing many activities with a socio-cultural character.

To get it there is looking for places in the city as the “delegaciones” (Administrative Buildings) and they surrounding spaces and other referential public spaces as the forests or the zoological in order to establish activity points that will be in the mental map of the citizens, who through their experiences relating this places with the activities that are developed there making the advertising less important every time.


Strategy 05 _ Local Agriculture Promotion (Economical + Social + Cultural + Environmental)

Another strategy that has been looking for with this project is the promotion of the local agriculture, encouraging a fair and sustainable commerce through the sale of products that came from the fields in the agricultural areas in the District. The cultural relation is direct because there are local products, creating like this a link with the own city tradition.

In this way there is obtaining economical benefits for the farmers and environmental benefits derived from the ecological farming and the reduction of the emissions produces by the merchandise transport.

In the end, the increasing of the farming activity produces an increased number of workers what produces social benefits from the whole activity.


Strategy 06 _ Market Promotion & Advertising (Economical + Social)

The last strategy is related with the way in which the project is shown to the public and how to get the market promotion in order it continues developing along the time.

To get it is necessary that the people know that something is happening and they could participate without realizing a big effort. There is developing an advertising campaign using posters in the streets and in the social networks where is shown the project characteristics, how to participate and the places where is going to be developed, in a direct and easy way, trying to generate curiosity in the potential users by showing the possibility of obtaining benefits by participating in the activity.





Levels of intervention


As it has been explained through the different strategies that the project develop, the intervention is set in the different layers of the reality (Social, Economical, Cultural & Environmental) to get the project to function globally.






The main social difficulty that has been found is how to attract a sufficient number of people each edition in order to make viable the project.

On one hand the volunteers that are necessary for the activity development and on the other the market visitors. The first step is attract them to this new activity, but there is very important that after reaching their approaching they continue participating for the continuity of the project after passing the initial curiosity.



The consciousness-raising task is difficult and is just got through the repetition and the citizens’ implication, that’s why this culturally point is difficult to get but step by step is being achieved.

It has been developed to date around 30 editions of the “Mercado de Trueque” and with them and other activities of the “Plan Verde” there is getting to change the Mexican society habits, having impact mainly in the working classes and through the children. In two years it has been getting an important raise in the recycling taxes and this is a very good starting point for a plan developed for 15 years.




In this case the environmental difficulty is related with the cultural part of the project. There is necessary that the users no just participate in the activity but also they do it properly, in order the waste arrive to the market in the indicated conditions in order to facilitate their recycling; working in this direction could make the people start to recycling and continue doing it after the market, establishing in this way an appropriate environmental education.

On the other hand the necessity of bringing ecological products to the market generate an environmental difficulty (and also economical) additional due to the obligatory nature of not to use chemical products causes that the harvests been specially sensitive to the effects of the plagues what raise the price of the products by the necessity of specific care and the possibility of loosing the hole harvest.



The principal economical difficulty is related with the funds obtaining that are necessary for paying the agricultural products each edition, this suppose about 100.000 Mexican pesos monthly (around 5.500€), and just a part of them, between the 20 and the 40% is recovered with the waste selling.

The infrastructure expenses are minimum because there is necessary doing it just once and are reduced to baskets, scales and the small stands that are used for receiving the people.

In relation to the staff, with the volunteers system there is got that the expenses derived from the activity were minimum due to the volunteers and municipal employees carry out with the market development.



Successes and Failures

Regarding to the economical organization there is not a profitable project, as it has been commented, just for the payment of the farming products the Administration puts around the 80% of the money that there is necessary for their purchase. In this aspect the project is a clear failure, but there is necessary to keep in mind that there is not a project destined to obtain economical benefit but to create citizens’ awareness, because of that this turns into a secondary aspect.



On the other hand, regarding to the farmers and traders this project do imply an important increasing in the volume of sales, producing with it an economical benefit that affect the citizenship. In this way the market users also obtain benefits by obtaining consumer products for free. Anyway, they obtain a symbolic benefit that help the development of people with limited economic resources, in any case it reach to cover the alimentary necessities of a family.


Environmentally the project produce clear benefits mainly due to the energetic saves and about derivative media from the recycling of the more than 15 tones of waste that each Sunday are collected, but also the reduction in the CO2 emissions by reducing the distances in the itineraries in the transport of the agricultural products.

Beneficios Medioambientales 2013


Besides that, the project implies environmental benefits for the obligatory nature of the ecological farming for participate in the activity. In this way there is guaranteeing the environment by the elimination of the chemical products during the harvesting process what represent benefits for the land that is another objective of the “Plan Verde”

Despite all these data, there is necessary to indicate that in front a waste production of more than 12.000 tones daily, the 15 tones that are collected every month represent something symbolic. Anyway there I have to remark, once again, that the objective is not bring a solution to the waste management problem but educate the population in order the recycling rates grow up step by step through the awareness raising.


Socially there is set as a meeting point in which the people’s affluence generate an activity that produces benefits in all the different agents involved.

Due to the activity is developed on Sundays, the market turns into a familiar activity in which the interactions that usually appear in a usual commercial activity are multiplied by the exchanging dynamic that the project establish.

The more remarkable social datum could be the number or participants that each edition takes part in (between 2.000 and 3.000 people). But it could be understood as an achievement or a failure depending on the context in which is framed. Because in a 40.000.000 inhabitants city depending on the expectations of the organization could be one thing or the contrary.



Culturally the project gives an answer to the necessity of increasing the recycling culture, as well as the generation of a civic spirit. Probably is the most remarkable aspect in the project and what more achievements have been reached.

With this project there is looking for the citizens education, that come to the market many times with their children or they family what causes that the children participate in an active way in the project.

According to the Environment Ministry, with the whole activities of the program “Vamos a Separar” (We are going to separate) there has been risen from the 5% to the 85% the waste separating tax in two years, datum that although is framed in a environmental benefit is reached through the education of the society.





I think there is an exemplary process respect of the way in which there has been got used the project to produce a direct benefit in the society.

Is interesting how they get to obtain desirables result by offering the citizens something they want in exchange for their collaboration. It is true that the environmental education should go beyond that offer something in exchange, because the environment suppose a moral responsibility, but there is a good starting point for involve a part of the population in the recycling process.

With any doubt there are many aspects that there could be improved, as the economic management and the importance of getting higher collecting taxes by a larger number of people but even though the result obtained up to now are more than satisfactory.

Personally what is more important for mi in this project is the way in which the population, in general, is implied actively in the project, creating a sort of sociocultural relations that go beyond the usual exchange.





















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