Eduardo de la Tijera believes the plastics industry is better off promoting recycling than biodegradables.
De la Tijera, who until recently was president of the Naucalpan, Mexico-based National Association of the Plastics Industry AC, or Anipac, spoke at Plastics Recycling 2008, held Feb 26-27 in Jacksonville. He asked the audience to shout with him: ``Plastics are good!'' - a campaign Anipac is using with its members, consumers and brand owners.
Green doesn't mean zero plastics, he said. Bio-based plastic bags are not necessarily better than conventional bags. He compared the energy losses in different treatment methods of a polyethylene shopping bag.
``We can recover 61.5 percent of the primary energy by recycling, compared to 21.5 percent by incineration and a mere 0.6 percent by biodegradation,'' said de la Tijera, president of Mexico City consulting firm Grupo Texne.
He said banning plastics is a dangerous approach, only helping brand owners profit from green marketing. Retailers, having very little collaboration with the plastics industry, deliver misleading messages to consumers, he said, such as PVC-free, bio-is-good, and paper-for-plastic. ``This has a large impact on consumers and is very difficult to revert.''
De la Tijera said the correct approach is to reduce, reclaim and recycle plastic products.
Mexico recycles 12 percent of the 3.5 million metric tons (7.72 billion pounds) of plastic waste it generates annually, he said. Around half of the plastic waste is from domestically produced items.
Similar to the situation in China, Mexico has a large group of profit-driven waste collectors. They go through landfills and dig out valuable plastic waste.
Home separation can give another boost to recycling. De la Tijera said less than 1 percent of plastic shopping bags are directly collected from the residential channel, leaving more than 99 percent to go to disposal, mostly in landfills.
Anipac's environmental initiatives include a Plastics Bags Standardization Program that promotes standard size, gauge and material identification of T-shirt bags. An Industry Reclaim Program helps companies set up reclaiming systems with support from recyclers. The organization also promotes sustainable design using plastics among designers, architects and material purchasers through a New Product Development Program.
Mexico's plastic waste imports dropped from 105 million pounds in 2001 to 99.2 million pounds in 2006. During the same period, exports leapt from 282.2 million pounds to 767.2 million pounds, the majority of which was unclean waste from landfills.