Isla Mujeres Mystery ~ Lynda L. Lock

One person’s junk is another person’s treasure

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Don Cosi – on the wharf near Ballyhoo Restaurant
Early in the morning, while walking Sparky among the cluster of beached fishing boats near the Ballyhoo Restaurant, I noticed an elderly local gentleman sitting on the nearby wharf.  

He was manually crushing a pile of aluminum beverage cans; one by one. 

Heading off to the metal recycler

His nickname is Cosi,and he is apparently in his mid-nineties.  

He told one of the waiters at Ballyhoo that when he was a much younger man he built wharfs.  Then quite recently his family convinced him to stop doing hard physical work and retire, but he doesn’t like retirement.  It’s too boring, so he collects aluminum cans and redeems them for cash.  Once he has a bag of cans he sits on the wharf and crushes them flat.  This enables him to fit more weight in a small area.  

Some of the other can collectors just bag up the cans and transport the whole load via two-wheeled bicycle carts or moto to the recycled metal purchaser.  Quicker, but in the end probably equals the equivalent in weight to what Cosi collects and crushes.

In BC Canada – everything gets sorted!
We asked another of the islanders who collects cans from along the roadway how much a kilo of aluminum was worth in scrap value.  He said he is usually paid twelve pesos for approximately seventy one cans.  That’s about .66 cents US for 2.2 pounds of metal.  That’s a whole lot of bending over. 

Mexico is definitely not the leader in what we northerners think of as recycling – plastics, glass, newsprint, cardboard, grass clippings and yard waste – all those things that must be sorted, washed, bundled, or flattened before the garbage crews will remove them once a week from the foot of your driveway.  

In British Columbia Canada (where we were from) there is a deposit of between five cents and twenty cents depending on the item charged on every type of drink container – except milk.  

The night before our garbage pickup day we would leave a box of various containers and bottles at the foot of the driveway – wine, beer, pop, juice boxes, hard liquor – anything.  Gone by morning!   It was just easier to leave the returnables for someone who needed the cash, than to shift the whole lot over to a recycling depot, sort the stinky mess, and wait in line for the cash refunds. 

Garbage collectors – separate out the aluminum cans
On Isla Mujeres, and elsewhere in Mexico, the roadways are littered with non-returnable glass beer bottles, squashed plastic drink bottles, stray plastic bags and discarded food wrappers drifting in the wind.  There are crews of municipal workers who clean the roadway margins on a regular basis, but it is a back-breaking never-ending job.

You can help a little by making it easy for local collectors to find your discarded aluminum adult beverage containers (beer cans!).  Maybe collect them in a cardboard box and put out for the garbage guys.  Hotel guest could ask at the front desk and perhaps encourage a rudimentary recycling program for the aluminum cans.

Just keep ‘em separate from the rest of your daily trash, somebody will treasure your discards.
Hasta Pronto!
Lynda & Lawrie

3 Replies to “One person’s junk is another person’s treasure”

  1. Nice story. I have always followed the “Re-use. Reduce. Recycle.” mantra, and one little addition I would make is to encourage the use returnable bottles for “adult beverages” and sodas. We have had this policy at Casa Sirena for over a decade, and estimate that we have prevented more than 48,000 beverage containers from entering the landfills of Mexico.


  2. Ah yes the returnable beer bottles that are purchased by the case from the beer stores are a rarity. But the returnable pop (soda) bottles …. did not know there was such a thing here. Thanks for the info. Cheers Lynda


  3. You can get soda in returnable glass bottles across from the military hospital! Saves a bit of $$ too. And the glass bottles keep sodas cold longer than cans or yucky tasting plastic bottles. Beer avialble there too!


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