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Mexican molder making roof modules from recycled polypropylene

By: Stephen Downer

April 1, 2013

MEXICO CITY – Family-owned BMI Plásticos SA de CV is expecting delivery of a KraussMaffei 420 injection molding press this spring with which it plans to launch an environment-friendly venture that's been five years in preparation.

Employing technology licensed from LiveRoof LLC, of Spring Lake, Mich., the Mexico City processor will manufacture modules from recycled polypropylene caps used on PET bottles.

"We've been developing this project over the past five years," Ernesto González Carrillo, BMI Plásticos' managing director and a chemical engineering graduate of Mexico's National Autonomous University (UNAM), told Plastics News.

"Outside the United States, we're the only ones making modules for LiveRoof. They even gave me the tools to make the modules."

When installed in sufficient numbers on rooftops, the modules, which feature a so-called soil elevator or substratum covered with specially prepared humus and sedum plants, can help reduce the temperature inside a building by 10 percent, according to González.

His company, which employs 25, including two of his sons, operates out of a 7,500 square ft factory close to the Petróleos Mexicanos (Pemex) headquarters in the Mexican capital.

González, a former managing director of Embotelladora Mundet, an iconic Mexican soft drink now owned by the Coca-Cola Company, said the 2009 global economic crisis hit BMI's business hard. "We were looking for new business, one using recycled plastic and oriented to the environment."

He described the day he heard about LiveRoof as "divine intervention." He traveled to Spring Lake, where he talked to LiveRoof's president Dave MacKenzie, a horticulturalist, and others about his Mexico project.

Today BMI Plásticos, which already operates several KraussMaffei presses, ranging in clamping force between 65 and 420 tons, has an installed capacity for producing 1,000 23.6 x 11.8- inch modules a day. The new machine will change that.

"Our goal this year is to sell about $150,000 worth of modules per month," said González. "Longer term, the goal is $250,000 a month."

The company's sales in 2012 amounted to $1 million, González said. BMI Plásticos also makes spoons sold with the milk for infants produced by its main client, Mead Johnson Nutrition Co. of Glenview, Ill., retail display tie hooks for major Mexican clothing stores and powder packs for the cosmetics industry.

It processes between four and five tons of resins, including polypropylene and polystyrene but mostly high density polyethylene, per month.

Much of its attention this year will be focused on the green roof project. "It's an ambitious program," said González, pointing out that he's been heavily promoting the technology with city governments and builders across Mexico.

"But it's also noble because it'll take care of a lot of the rubbish on our streets. The technology guarantees the existence of the modules for years" — 20 years, to be exact.