Patience with the Topic of Trash

By Jesús Aguado

The trash collection service from TecMed (Técnicas Medioambientales de México) began on October 22. After complaints from the citizens, representatives of the company acknowledged that there have been inefficiencies in the service because some vehicles still have not been delivered. However, they said that the service should be evaluated after a month. Meanwhile they ask for patience and time.

Everything has begun

The local government attorney, Luis Manuel Orozco, told Atención San Miguel previously that some time ago, the local administration conducted a study which determined that the service was not optimal.

Orozco mentioned that one finding of the study was found that the garbage trucks were in very bad condition and a great deal of time was lost when they were undergoing repair. Often their routes were not completed. The study also found that the trucks did not compact the garbage, and when the truck was full, it needed to take the trash to the sanitary landfill in Palo Colorado. It took from 30–60 minutes to get there, and they wasted time, space, and gas. Orozco said that the trucks could have space for four tons, but since the trash was not compacted, the space was not used efficiently.

There were also delays on the routes because of the “moscas,” garbage-pickers who separated the recyclables—paper, cardboard, glass, and plastic. These people did not work for the city, and their activity was totally illegal. However, the administration never stopped it. According to attorney Orozco, in order to solve the garbage problem, the government needed to invest up to 25 million pesos to purchase new specialized vehicles that are closed (to avoid “moscas”) and have a compressor.

The study showed that there were more streets in the city now, and mechanical sweepers were needed, especially on the high-speed roads. The study also found that the local government had not been complying with the Federal Law of Ecologic Balance or the General Law of Climate Change when they discarded the trash at the Relleno Sanitario (sanitary landfill). Only 5 to 10 percent of the trash was (is) being recycled, and the rest was stored with “rented machinery,” said Orozco. “Therefore, the solution was to pay companies to get rid of the garbage.

The trucks did fail

The collection service started at the same time as the complaints. Citizens said that the trucks did not have capacity enough to take all the solid waste and not all the routes were being covered by the company responsible. Atención interviewed Juan Aceves, in charge of the Public Relations Department of the new company. He said that one of the main causes of the delays was that the suppliers did not deliver all the trucks. For that reason, not all of them started operation on October 22. He did not give a number.

Aceves assured that the total number of vehicles would be working “in the days to come” but did not provide an exact date. Then the service would be working regularly. He said that now there are no schedules for the routes, but the employees are working 14 hours a day. He asked sanmiguelenses for calmness and time because after a month people could begin to evaluate the service and see the results.

José Hernández is the manager of the TecMed company in San Miguel. He compared the beginning of the service with a marriage: “We need time to know each other.” He assured that the city—through the Public Services Department—had much delayed work and had not picked up trash before in many places. Those, he said, were many of the complaints they were receiving; however, they were decreasing with time. According to Hernández, there are currently 12 garbage trucks working in the city. Three have a capacity for 20 tons. Two are operating in rural communities, and one receives the trash from smaller cars at a base to take it to the sanitary landfill. Nine vehicles with a capacity of 13 tons are used in neighborhoods out of the Historic Center, and seven with a capacity for three tons are collecting the trash at the Historic Center. These vehicles can go on a route for three hours, depending on how much trash sanmiguelenses generate, and then return to continue in the scheduled area.

Containers and islands

When TecMed started operations in the city, 64 containers should have been placed in rural communities and some in places to substitute for the vehicles that were parked in areas for trash disposal. Calzada de la Luz, Salida a Celaya, and colonia Insurgentes were among these areas. Although none of the containers were ready on October 22, they were available on Friday, November 3.

We visited the facilities of TecMed at Libramiento Manuel Zavala 222, colonia Alamedas, on October 31, and there we counted 64 trash containers. Employees were working on them, placing plastic lids and also changing the color from pale green to dark green. Apparently, the structures had not been installed because the administration did not approve the color. Two of the garbage trucks have a mechanism to lift the containers and collect the trash from these structures.

Six underground containers were to be placed on calle Hernández Macías, La Aldea, Sollano, Oratorio and Juárez; however, they were not constructed because, according to Aceves, the company is waiting for permits from the National Institute of Anthropology and History.

On the route

We got a ride on a Hillux truck driven by Delfino in order to witness the trash collection performance. On the road we talked about Delfino’s entry into the Public Service Department; he was working at the Public Markets Department, but he had a problem with the person in charge. “To punish him” that person sent Delfino to the trash collection area. He learned everything he needed to know, from separating the garbage to making 250-kilo packs of trash. He is now the supervisor at TecMed.

On our way to Barrio del Valle del Maíz, we kept talking. Delfino was wearing some silver rings, a watch, and a necklace. “I found them in the trash” he said, “and I would show you the others, but I have them at home.” He found that material when he was a collector, commenting that there was a rule that when something was found, it belonged to the one who found it. He also mentioned that when he was working as a collector, he separated material like plastic, glass, copper, or metal. That “trash” was later sold, and he made the same amount as his payment from the local government. Now the workers cannot separate or collect and sell any piece of recyclable trash.

On the way we ran into Don Juan Monzón. I took a ride in his truck, and while a helper was ringing the traditional bell, the truck moved ahead slowly. The workers were taking trash that was in sacks, bags, or bins. Monzón said that they are working double shifts, and he expects the company to pay them according to law—14 hours a day. He also noted that now workers cannot separate and sell recyclables. However, they need to work, and they have to respect the rules. At Valle del Maíz, people were waiting at their doors for the truck and handed over their trash. In colonias Guadiana and Ojo de agua, the bags with trash were on the sidewalk or hanging from a pole or a tree. The workers told Atención that it is better if people just wait for them to pass and then hand over the bags. That way, dogs will not spread it around.

Rural communities are covered by the administration

Alfonso Sauto, director of the Public Services Department of the administration, and previously in charge of the trash collecting service, acknowledged that the local administration is supporting TecMed with the collection in rural communities. They operate six trucks. Although we talked with some employees who said they will work until December and later will be fired, Sauto commented that some of them will be relocated in the administration, others with TecMed, and some will be let go, “but not all of them.”

On the other hand, Sauto commented that the department did not fire the sweepers who clean the Historic Center. They are also in charge of collecting the trash from the bins on the streets.

At the sanitary landfill

Orozco mentioned that the service for trash separation was granted to Winktek, and they were supposed to start working eight days after TecMed, on Sunday, October 29.

We paid a visit to the sanitary landfill, where we saw the garbage truck was being weighed on a scale. Later, the driver continued on his way, going up on a mountain that was flat on the top. His truck was crowned with plastic bags, dust, and a machine compacting the refuse. There were women, children, dogs, flies, and young men waiting for the car in which they would follow the truck like flies to honey.

The vehicle started expelling the trash and behind it, the young men were waiting for it, catching and dragging bags to the side for a later look in them to see what they could find. Now that the workers of TecMed are not separating the trash, “They are taking it all,” said some of the workers from the company. According to them, it was also easy to find money. It is said that once a man found 50 thousand pesos. Previously the collectors working for the administration were making 2500 pesos every two weeks plus the same amount from selling the trash; now they are making around 3200 pesos, before taxes, and no tips because they cannot hand the tips can in the vehicle.

We requested an interview with representatives of Winktek; however, we received no response. Previously, Orozco had mentioned that the company would construct facilities to separate the trash at the sanitary landfill. He also brought up the possible hiring of scavengers “because they know how to perform the work.” But there is nothing yet. A fence delimits the area, and in some parts it has disappeared. Through the open spaces, the scavengers get in to the area and literally steal the recyclable trash. Outside of the property, it was easy to see giant sacks full of materials, as well as mules waiting for a load.

TecMed and Winktek

TecMed is a company that, according to a fact sheet given to the administration, is working in world heritage cities like Santiago de Compostela (Spain,) Marrakech and Rabat (Morocco,) and others. Their proposal, made to the local government through its representative Alberto José Hernández Minguito, included the placement of six islands of four underground dumpsters. A final decision on the location of these islands has not yet been made, but the proposal indicates the following locations: the corner of Correo and Sollano, on Juárez next to the San Francisco Church, beside the Oratorio esplanade, on Mesones facing Bellas Artes, and on the corner of Nemesio Díez and Ancha de San Antonio. The design of the trash cans is still in progress, but Orozco said that they will look like “mail boxes.” People who for some reason are not able to give their trash to the truck on its route could deposit their garbage at these locations. Specialized TecMed trucks would collect this garbage at night.

The company also proposed using two mechanical sweepers. One would specialize in cobblestone streets and the other would be used at the entrances and exits of the city. For the rural areas, the company would place 64 containers of three cubic meters each. They are planning on having new collection routes (21 in the city and 8 in the rural communities) and 11 trucks would cover these routes. TecMed will receive 429.31 pesos plus taxes for each ton of collected trash.

When Atención asked if the companies will have some kind of campaign for separating the trash, Orozco said that, according to Winktek, this would not be necessary. Thanks to their technology, this can be done at the sanitary landfill. Winktek will receive 190 pesos plus tax for each processed ton of trash.

Orozco said that in total, the companies will receive approximately 23–25 million pesos a year for collecting, removing, and processing the trash. But with this plan, 90–95 percent of the solid wastes will be recycled, and the rest will be buried. “That will extend the life of the facilities of the landfill,” he noted.

 

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