MEXICO CITY — Recycling is well-established in Mexico, but on a small scale: A man goes shouting through the streets asking for used iron and metal scraps; a horse hauls a cart with recyclable goods like mattresses and newspapers; hordes of laborers manually sort mountains of garbage at the landfills.
But three new Mexico City firms are recycling PET soft drink bottles using newer technology, and they are calling for legislation to nurture the industry.
A 3-year-old recyclers' group, the Instituto Nacional de Recicladores, has been in talks since its inception with the finance ministry, Hacienda, and the trade ministry, Secofi. But talks are going ``at a snail's pace,'' said Maria de Jesus Antonez, INR national vice president. The association is based in Mexico City.
Talks involving the plastics industry, recyclers and government bodies, however, are moving at a faster pace, and may even be finished before the year's end.
The association that promotes PET recycling, Asociaci¢n para Promover el Reciclado de PET, or Aprepet, has set up talks with resin producers such as Shell Mexico SA de CV and Celanese Mexicana SA de CV. The talks also include Pepsi and Coca-Cola bottlers in Mexico, and three major recyclers: Crisol, Kimex SA de CV, and Recimex SA de CV, according to Raul Lopez, Aprepet member and Recimex general director. The planned legislation includes proposals for resin identification labeling, encouraging companies to use recycled materials, and requiring supermarkets to collect bottles for recycling.
Lopez said during a tour of his Mexico City plant Sept. 8 that the project has met with some resistance from resin producers and bottlers. But he said the larger companies, which are often foreign-owned, have a responsibility to deal with waste issues.
Celanese Mexicana's finance director, Arturo Ledesma, said in a Sept. 8 news conference that he did not expect the regulations ``to be as restrictive'' as current proposals.
``We are not totally agreeing with the position that they want to implement,'' he said.
Ledesma estimated that 18-20 percent of the PET used in Mexico is recycled, or about 176 million pounds per year.
Recimex has set up a program to receive recyclables at 22 stands in supermarket parking lots. Lopez said a good portion of the firm's 180 employees work the booths, which collect other types of goods as well as PET.
Lopez said the supermarket collection centers are not money-makers, but the fact that the company receives its primary goods free is a point of discord with some INR members.
Recimex opened its $4 million PET recycling plant in January, just as PET prices began to fall as a result of growing supplies of virgin resin. Lopez said the market did not begin to recover until April.
Antonez said the recycling industry in Mexico includes about 7,500 companies, plus another 10,000 unregistered people who work city streets. She estimated plastics comprise 4-5 percent of the entire industry.