Pi Attitude Zone: Conformity & Stability

Gumblots in Mexico

“Chicle! Chicle!”. The cry goes up from tens of thousands of street-sellers every day in Mexico City, hawking chewing-gum to the 25 million inhabitants of that vast conurbation.

Once the gum has been chewed to the point where the taste is gone, where does it go next? Straight onto the sidewalk. And there it bonds to the paving slabs, absorbs dirt and smog deposits, and sticks around to remind passers-by of someone else’s fleeting moment of pleasure.  Probably for years to come.

Discarded gum has a half-life almost as long as spent nuclear fuel rods. How big is this environmental problem? A survey of street surfaces outside the city’s metro stations estimated that on average there are around 70 bits of chewed and discarded gum per square metre. If the same concentration affects the whole surface area of Mexico City, Pi calculates that we are talking about 50 to 100 billion (yes billion) gumblots on the streetscape.

Where to start? The city’s co-ordinator of conservation for public spaces vowed to scrub the historic central district clean of chicle deposits, and a crack team of gum-busters started attacking the blobs with steam-jets and chemicals.

Meanwhile, in a truly startling and radical development, the municipal government gave notice that it planned to actually start enforcing its own recycling laws. According to city planners, over 70% of the residents of Mexico City were supposed to be separating household waste for recycling. In reality, fewer than 10% of the people in the capital were doing so. In Mexico City, entrenched attitudes are about as difficult to turn around as a supertanker in the Panama Canal.  Changing attitudes behind this behavior meant nothing less than re-shaping Mexicans’ feelings (or lack thereof) of civic pride.

Pi salutes the city for its praiseworthy attempt to change a century-old bad habit, and the shoulder-shrugging indifference that has been causing it for years

Zone: Conformity & Stability Country: Latin America Product – Consumer Products