The Zero Garbage Affair in Bogotá


The transition to zero waste does not occur in a vacuum and cannot simply be legislated into existence. Waste management is embedded within larger, and at times precarious, political contexts. When Gustavo Petro, then mayor of Bogotá, attempted to introduce a new zero garbage program that would allow these informal recyclers to receive proper wages, his plans failed dramatically. Private waste collectors, disgruntled at losing their lucrative contract, allowed garbage to accumulate in the streets. Petro found himself in the middle of a hygienic crisis that was used by his political opponents to try to remove him from office. Garbage had become a battlefield upon which the struggle against corruption for social reform and justice was carried out.