Bag makers say recycling has helped Mexico

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MEXICO CITY (Oct. 13, 4:15 p.m. ET) — The head of Mexico’s leading plastic bag-making organization claims newly adopted recycling policies have given a boost to the poor and helped the economy.

“Right now many people are collecting plastic bags and selling them and the price is going up,” said Juan Antonio Hernández, managing director of Falcon Plastics de México SA de CV.

He said the 6-to-8 pesos ($0.45-0.60) Falcon pays for 2.2 pounds of recycled material used at its plant in Morelia, capital of the state of Michoacan, is at least 60 percent more than the year-ago price.

“Material is expensive but there’s more of it,” Hernández said in an interview at Plastimagen México. “Last year we were using 18 percent recycled in our black bags. Now it’s 30 percent.”

Hernández is also president of a 40-strong group of plastic bag firms, Industriales de Bolsas Plásticas de México AC (Inboplast), that produces 60 percent of the plastic bags made in Mexico. Inboplast started a $2.1 million recycling plant in the municipality of Arandas, in the western Mexican state of Jalisco, in January.

Two years ago the Mexico City government favored biodegradable over recycling as a means of solving its garbage-related problems. It also introduced a bag ban temporarily.

But in May it activated a law making it illegal for people not to separate organic and non-organic domestic waste, Hernández said.

“So garbage is getting a value. It’s good for the economy and it’s good for jobs.”

He expects the recycling trend to spread from the capital to the 31 other states. “Mexico City is always the leader and whatever happens in Mexico City is copied. We had a fight with the capital’s government to overturn the ban. They accepted that biodegradation is not a good thing and recycling is better.”

Inboplast was one of nine sponsors of Ramani Narayan, of Michigan State University’s chemical engineering and materials science department, who in a three-hour presentation criticized claims made by some companies that plastics can be totally biodegradable.

“Partial degradability is not acceptable,” said the university professor, who represents the United States at the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) in the area of plastics, among other tasks.

“I have a great deal of respect for him and I agree with the vast majority of what he says,” Andrew Barclay, a scientist and technical director of British additive masterbatch company Well’s Plastics Ltd., told Plastics News after listening to Narayan’s presentation.

Wild claims about the effectiveness of oxo-biodegradables “bring our industry into disrepute,” Barclay said but added immediately that “it’s just not the case that there’s no valuable information [about oxo-biodegradability] out there.”

Barclay emphasized that he was talking about claims related to oxo-biodegradability, not hydro-biodegradability.

Hernández said: “We are not against technology or against biodegradability. Our concern is the confusion that has been caused” by unsubstantiated claims.