Trash Service in Montevideo

Some of you may be wondering about basic services in the city here. Well, the only one that we’ve found remarkably different is the trash service.

Individual households are not given trash bins, nor do apartment buildings have their own trash service. Instead there are large green dumpsters on the corner of every street. These dumpsters are covered and have a step pedal so that you don’t have to get dirty throwing your trash away. City trash men come around during the night and empty the big dumpsters into their garbage truck.

For those that don’t know, Buenos Aires trash service is similar except without the dumpsters. People throw all their trash (in bags) on the sidewalk on trash night and the garbage men come along to collect it. Makes walking around the city unpleasant on some nights and also makes for dirty streets.

Another interesting aspect of the trash service around here is that there are numerous people and families that make a living off of dumpster diving. They drive around horse-pulled carts in which they store their spoils. They collect anything of value out of the dumpsters including: clothes, plastic or glass bottles (see below), food, cardboard, or really anything that could be re-sold. Sometimes dumpster diving literally involves someone getting into the dumpster and propping open the lid, while other times it just means peering in and grabbing whatever is visible.

On a normal walk through the streets, even a short trip, you can seen these horse-drawn carts. The cars are polite and keep their distance. The horses all wear side blinders so that they don’t get startled by traffic. Most of the horses seem to be kept in pretty good condition, leading me to believe that people can actually make a decent living dumpster diving. Many of these horse-drawn teams likely live a bit out of the city center where there is more green space.

There is also no organized recycling service in Montevideo, but some plastic and glass bottles are returnable. When purchasing say a 2 liter bottle of Coke, it comes in a glass bottle and you pay a fee for the glass. The next time you go to the grocery store you can bring the empty bottle and get the fee back. There are machines in the back of large grocery stores where you can return bottles. Many of the 300 mL cokes that are purchased in restaurants are recycled in the same manner by the restaurant. It is not uncommon to purchase a coke in a restaurant and have the label be a bit worn from the process.