Mexico's Chamber of Deputies recently approved a law that establishes a coordinated national policy for all types of waste.
Despite the establishment of stricter controls on industrial waste, environmentalists opposed the effort because of modifications by Mexico's Senate that establish less-stringent requirements for landfills and permit incineration of hazardous waste.
Industries most affected will be those that generate hazardous waste, but at the same time the government is tackling other issues, including creating an infrastructure to recycle PET bottles.
The law will come into force the day after it has been signed by Mexican President Vicente Fox, which is expected in July.
Cristina Cortinas, adviser to Mexico's Green Ecological Party (PVEM), said the main changes are:
* All waste generators must track the waste they produce, and make efforts to handle, recycle or dispose of it in a safe and environmentally adequate way.
* Whoever produces waste should pay for its management and aim to reduce waste production.
* Organic and inorganic waste, as well as hazardous and nonhazardous waste, must be separated.
PVEM deputy Diego Cobo said the most important element of the law is the establishment of a registry for waste production.
"Before we had a registry of pollutant emissions," he said May 9, "but this did not apply to waste that was being held in storage."
Also, he said, local authorities have two years to present plans for how they are going to manage waste.
While the law will continue to allow imported waste from other countries for recycling, it now will require a guarantee in the form of a payment.
"This is so that the company bringing in the waste can't just disappear and dump the waste here, which is what's happening now," he said.
Finally, new and important in the law on waste is the concept of remediation.
"If a company pollutes a place, it has to foot the bill to clean it up," he said.
The law had been debated widely by industry associations, including Mexico's National Association for Plastics Industries (ANIPAC), which, along with other associations, managed to add various modifications to earlier drafts.
Rafael Hern ndez, deputy for the left wing Party of the Democratic Revolution, said changes made by the Senate favored what is called "ecological recycling," a term used to refer to the incineration of waste to produce electricity.
"Incineration has been an important subterranean theme in all of this, and the new law practically legalizes incineration, while currently it is prohibited in some states and local authorities," Hern ndez said.
Cobo added, "Industry obtains a number of benefits from the new law. For example generators of waste can also invest in treating and recycling it, and make another business out of it."
He said soft drink companies have business proposals ready as a result of the new law.
"This is a good thing - the plastic bottles won't be lying around in the streets and rivers and it will also generate employment."
Mexico's Environment Ministry estimates that currently more than 90 million of the 9 billion PET bottles distributed annually in the country end up as litter. The soft drink industry plans to invest about $5 million in a project that will help meet a government goal of recycling 35 percent of the country's PET bottles.