Utne Blogs > Environment

Let’s Stop Sending Our Dirty Old School Buses Abroad

 by Danielle Maestretti


Tags: Environment, air pollution, Central America, school buses, emissions, E Magazine, Danielle Maestretti,

Chicken busIf you’ve ever traveled in Central America, you’ve seen the “chicken buses”: They’re old U.S. school buses, decorated to varying degrees of flamboyance, slightly repurposed to transport people, goods, and in some rural areas, chickens (and other live animals). 

“At first glance, it seems like an environmental victory to squeeze the maximum life out of such equipment, the automotive equivalent of sending old sweaters to Goodwill,” writes Terri Peterson Smith in E Magazine. But these buses’ emissions—nitrogen oxide, soot, and other contaminates—pollute the air and can cause health problems.

The problem is worst with the oldest buses, according to the article, which cites an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finding that "pre-1990 buses may emit up to six times more pollution than newer models."

Source: E Magazine 

Image by DavidDennisPhotos.com, licensed under Creative Commons.

tony reynolds
6/10/2009 7:48:20 AM

I, too, travel frequently in Central America. The good news is that huge numbers of people take the bus - every day - and they go everywhere. The bad news is that you can probably see the exhaust from space. The drivers take too many risks and the bad guys fight gun battles over routes. At least a century of bad government policy - all governments - got us to today - hopefully, the solution will come faster - and it requires everyone to be involved.


daniel pullan
6/2/2009 12:33:52 PM

Well, having just spent a year travelling on Central American chicken buses, I can say that: yes, some of them are amazingly polluting - take a ride in Guatemala City and check out those exhaust fumes. But hey, unless someone's going to donate hundreds of new, fuel efficient, low particulate buses to these countries, then this article is a bit pointless. Chicken buses allow the vast majority of people with next to no money and no alternative transport to do what they need to do to live.