Waste-to-Architecture Factory – sustainable manufacturing and waste management system in Mexico City 

Mexico City, the fifth most populated city in the world,­ produces 13,000 tonnes of solid waste per day with only 6% of the plastic waste being recycled. The majority of waste ends up on municipal landfills or oceans, creating health hazards and polluting soil and water.  

The existing recycling system is largely dependant on informal labour: the 10,000 waste pickers called ‘pepenadores’ are responsible for 60% of all material recovery. This job is a source of income for them and their families, however, because of its informal character, the workers are deprived of basic worker rights, social security and any other employment benefits.

The present linear economic model with the take-make-waste approach uses materials in an unsustainable way, creating products without taking into account their environmental impact and ability to be reused and recycled. A circular economy approach is needed to help the society with managing the continuously generated plastic waste.

This project focuses on challenges associated with the collection of recyclable plastic waste in Mexico City and presents the opportunity of turning it into construction materials for the local community. The proposed scheme also proposes ways to improve the working and living conditions of people involved in the plastic collecting and recycling process. 

This thesis proposes a series of interventions including a community-based waste collection network, reclaiming the former landfill Bordo Poniente, and finally constructing a Waste-to-Architecture Factory. The Factory would act as the main hub for plastic waste collection, housing the recycling system, as well as the distribution point of products made from waste construction materials. The factory also consists of a Plastic Emergency Centre, with the aim of educating the public about plastic pollution, as well as facilities which provide safe and comfortable working conditions for the workers.