Reducing Waste Merida Yucatan

Reducing Waste While Living In Merida, Yucatan

Written by Nik Jameson

I’m a self-described eco-warrior, so you probably knew this post was coming sooner or later. 

I’m not here to judge you or your actions, but only ask you to make small changes you are able to leave a better and cleaner world for the next generation. 

While the politicians continue to debate climate control and emissions, the world has started to see the shock of the great pacific ocean garbage patch, the rivers filled with plastic bottles and the birds caught up in balloon strings. While I am not here to debate climate control, it is clear we have a trash problem. 

The only way to deal without amount of trash is to reduce it. 

Lucky for us we already have a lot of the things we need right in our house. 

Take out

I love to take out food, but I dislike styrofoam.

 This is a place we can all improve. With the delivery apps easier and easier each day the environmental impact is not being well considered. Luckily it’s also the easiest place for improvement. 

1. You can start to eat at restaurants. 

2. You can order carry out and bring your own Tupperware from home instead of using styrofoam. 

3. You can learn to cook some staples using my wonderful recipe archive. ()4. You can pressure your favorite local businesses to use paper, bio-cardboard or other proven eco-friendly materials instead of styrofoam. 


Put down the individual plastic bottles. Please. Pretty please. Pretty please with sugar on top. Pick up the refillable 5 gallon jugs available by delivery, at all the grocery stores and even in the corner shops. I know they can be heavy, especially as we age, but if you get delivery you can have them put the jug onto a temperature regulated water cooler or a “swing” that makes it easier to store and serve. 

Reusable bottles: 

When out and about I take a reusable bottle with you. Of course you can spend money on fancy water bottles or thermos, but I’ve been seen with jam jars, empty glass bottles and even my reused plastic peanut butter jar. I my option anything clean and with a lid can be used as a water bottle and this switch is one of the most positive environmental impacts we can have.

Home Water Treatment:

If you have the money to invest I highly recommend a reverse osmosis system installed in your home to clean all your drinking water. They are easy to maintain and some even have recycled and reusable filters. It does require a bit of construction depending where you install the pump and filter and how far the tubing needs to be run for distribution, but in the long run this is the cheapest and safest way to secure your own clean drinking water. 

Remember why this matters: 

A plastic water bottle takes 100-400 years to decompose , but of course when we say decompose we really just mean break into tiny fragments no longer visible to the human eye. These fragments are called microplastics, they are already everywhere and it’s not clear how microplastics will affect the health of us and the ecosystem. (check the rates decomposition for other household materials you use here →


I’m with you, I love my yellow sponge even though I grew up listening to my grandma lecture me on how the sponge was a filthy material full of bacteria and she could believe how I could rub dishes with something like that and call them clean. I am finally catching up with my grandma’s wisdom, albeit not for the dirty bacteria reasons but because a yellow sponge is actually another plastic.

What to use instead:

1. crochet cotton dish rags are my favorite option, I change them every 2 days or more and wash in the normal laundry with my other kitchen linens.

2. silicone scouring pads found on the internet are great because they have a nice long life and are good for stuck-on messes in pots and pans.

3. Of course, the most natural and easiest option is a loofah. Loofahs don’t last very long (1-2 weeks), but they are compostable and very cheaply replaced. You can even grow them yourself if you have the space. They grow quickly in the tropical heat and can be found in all the health food stores. 

Beauty Routine:

Cotton balls: For a long time I was a daily cotton ball user until I realized a microfiber and even cotton cloth works just as well, and perhaps even better.  I use a hand-sized microfiber and wash it weekly or more often if needed.

I like the freedom in motion that comes from a cloth and the amount of soap I can get to cover my face. 

Tampons and pads

Something half the population can’t live without is feminine hygiene products and it feels like this is one type of waste that is hard to slow down because we have little choice over our flow. However, It came as a shock to me when I learned how toxic pads and even more so, tampons are. To get the soft white cotton it takes a lot of bleach, and then we place that chemical into our bodies. 

Pad are better for us but they come with other issues. Most are made with a mixed plastic material making their decomposition much slower and more pollutant. Surprisingly, pads can take longer than plastic bottles to decompose in nature. Not to mention all plastic the tampon applicators going into landfills, it’s clear we must change our ways. 

The solution is to go back again to our grandma’s wisdom and use washable cotton cloth pantie liners, or get use to the future and use silicone menstrual cups. Both have pros and cons and can be a little tricky to get used to, but the benefits in my option are both personal and global. I have been using a combination of both washable cloth liners and a divacup for more than a decade estimating I’ve saved more than 1000 tampons and applicators from entering the ecosystem. 


Wen we can’t reduce we reuse and recycle. If you can go to the centro markets or any of the new bulk stores and buy your beans, rice, and other staples this would be a wonderful way to cut your waste (more post coming soon about these markets). However, I know that buying in bulk and going to the market isn’t easy for everyone, therefore recycling is the best next step. 

Merida has a mobile recycling center called “punto verde” that moves throughout the city. (

Where to find the Punto Verde mobile recycling center:



Slow Food Market


Ya’axtal Temozon Norte


Centro Lengua y Cultura

Photos by Nik Jameson 

Bi-weekly columnist at MID CityBeat and blogger at

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