ASUNCION – Highly valued in the countries of Asia and Europe, in Paraguay the mango is synonymous with trash, especially in Asuncion, where each summer tons of mangos pile up, given that people are more interested in the shade their trees provide than in their delicious fruit.
The fact that few people eat mangos in a city overflowing with the trees means that thousands of recently-fallen mangos rot along the capital’s streets before the municipal cleaning brigades can clean them up.
So many mangos are lying around rotting that Asuncion authorities have even earmarked one trash truck to make the rounds, tipped off by local residents, specifically collecting the fruit that has fallen to the ground in front of their homes.
Since the effort was begun 23 days ago, the truck has collected some 335 metric tons (369 tons) of mangos and expectations are that more than 500 metric tons will be collected before the end of January, when the mango season ends, Rodrigo Velazquez, the director of the city’s Urban Service told EFE.
An average mango tree can produce up to a ton of fruit per season and in the Paraguayan capital there are areas where up to a dozen trees are clustered.
“In Asuncion, mango trees have always been planted to create shade,” said Velazquez.
He added that the city has a fleet of just 20 garbage trucks to serve the population of half a million, and the mangos add to their work every year.
“The mangos create many problems because of their volume and weight. They fill up the trucks and there are delays in collecting (other) trash. In addition, they produce an acidic substance that damages the vehicles’ (interiors),” he said.
Now, however, the mango collection truck is helping to deal with the problem since it can carry up to 9 metric tons of fruit per trip, but Velazquez says it’s only a partial solution.
Another problem is trying to make the mango part of the Paraguayan diet, which consists basically of beef without many fruits and vegetables.
“Paraguayans are not inclined to eat fruit, and there is also a certain superstition about mangos, such as that they cannot be eaten with other products, like milk,” Velazquez said.