Abstract This paper reviews the contribution of the book ‘The Garbage Society: Caciquismo in Mexico City’; written 20 years ago when no official statistics on garbage production were available, to the development of sustainable waste management practice in Mexico. At that time public information was extremely difficult to obtain and environmental pollution was not regarded as an important research area for many disciplines, including social sciences. The objective of ‘The Garbage Society’ was to provide a detailed description of all the stages involved in garbage disposal from the time when it is discarded, until it resurfaces in recycled products. This process can be summarized as Garbage+Working force=Merchandise. The garbage problem in Mexico City is an accurate reflection of the Mexican political system that has traditionally supported corporatism in which caciques (a person who exercises absolute power over a group) play a key role. Current data are used to verify the events of that first study and through reflection on the historical process, to indicate the requirements for on-going research as a means of clarifying and categorizing the inherent problems associated with sustainable waste management in Mexico.

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