SAN ANTONIO - Business representatives from Mexico say the country's young recycling markets hold enormous economic potential for American companies looking to explore new territory. That was the word last month at a San Antonio conference sponsored by the Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission to examine U.S. export opportunities for recyclers in plastics, paper, glass and steel.
``If the U.S. and Mexico can succeed in establishing this relationship, we will be an example for the whole planet,'' said Fernando Ortiz, an environmental consultant from Mazatln, Mexico.
Because Mexico's markets arestill in the development phase, three issues - technology, transportation and culture - need to be addressed before both countries can move ahead in establishing recycling ties.
``There is a tremendous cultural barrier to break if we are to succeed,'' Ortiz said, referring to language differences and manners of conducting business. Breaking down these barriers will open doors to ``huge profits,'' he added.
While trucks and railroad cars are the primary transporters of recyclables to Mexico, U.S. truck drivers will be able to travel freely within the 62-mile border area under North American Free Trade Agreement provisions that take effect in December, said Oscar Carrillo, a market development specialist for the state of Texas.
Carrillo said the plastics recycling industry in Mexico still is immature, but there is evidence that suggests strong market potential.
Overall, the Mexican government has not taken an active role in recycling programs, said Ortiz, the environmental consultant and chief executive officer of ERM-Mexico.
Nevertheless, he claimed Mexico has an effective collection system in the scavengers who make their living by selling the materials they pick out of the landfills and illegal dumping sites.
Another group, made up largely of middle-class housewives, see themselves as contributing to the environment by collecting recyclables from their homes and in their neighborhoods, and taking the materials to small drop-off sites at supermarkets, Ortiz said.