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Lions and tigers and plastics

By: Don Loepp

June 12, 2014

In Mexico City, the capital’s legislative assembly has voted to ban the use of animals, from tigers and lions to horses and dogs, at all circus performances in the city within a year.

This week hundreds of performers from the big top and their fans marched through downtown Mexico City to demand Mayor Miguel Ángel Mancera throw the law out.

What does this have to do with plastics? A great deal, according to Eduardo de la Tijera Coeto, a leading light in the industry’s successful battle against a plastic bag ban in Mexico City several years ago.

Referring to the assembly’s 66 members, he wrote in his most recent emailed “Carta al Industrial”: “The legislators don’t care if their initiatives are really important or not. They pass the time inventing ‘causes’ so as to fill their records because that translates into money and political points, enabling them to aspire to other legislative positions or to get a cabinet job in a state or municipal government.”

De la Tijera, a plastics industry consultant and a former president of industry body Anipac (Asociación Nacional de las Industrias del Plástico AC), writes that in the space of five years and eight months, legislators across Mexico presented 53 proposals to introduce laws or programs banning plastic bags or replacing them with biodegradable plastic bags.

“Three, only three, other initiatives proposed an alternative policy, namely sustainable production and consumption,” he writes.

“Of the 53 proposals to ban plastic bags or insist on their biodegradability, only eight have become law and of those eight not one has been applied because they all ban something that doesn’t exist — the free use of bags — or they demand the impossible — the biodegrading of rubbish in rubbish dumps.”

Unfortunately for the country’s legislators, they ran into strong opposition from the plastics industry and commerce, writes De la Tijera. “They couldn’t win… and so they’ve turned their attention to the weakest link, the circuses.

“Why didn’t they attack other spectacles that use animals, such as bull fights, horse racing, ‘charreadas,’ cockfighting and zoos? Could it be that they measured the strength of the opposition and realized that they couldn’t win? They’re not stupid.”

(Thanks to Stephen Downer, Plastics News' Mexico City-based correspondent, for this report.)