Mexico's second-largest supermarket chain claims it is the country's first mass retailer to replace plastic shopping bags with biodegradable polyethylene ones at all its stores.
Organizacón Soriana SAB de CV, a public company headquartered in Monterrey, introduced the T-shirt bags to its 464 stores in January and February.
The move pre-empts the imminent introduction of new federal and state laws prohibiting the use of nonbiodegradable plastic bags in Mexico.
Lawmakers have been considering such legislation for several months, and the plastics community expects it to become law soon.
However, Rodrigo Benet CÃ³rdoba, Soriana's investment relations manager, said the company has been planning its change for several years.
We searched for state-of-the-art technology and found a company in Canada that supplies an additive that we add to the plastic to make it biodegradable, Benet said. We are the first Mexican retailer to do this in Mexico.
He said Environmental Technologies Inc. of Vancouver, British Columbia, provides its additives to Grupo Funsam SA de CV, which makes the bags for Soriana. Benet said Soriana will require 65 million bags per month and 700 million per year.
The bags meet biodegrable standard ASTM D6954-04, according to Funsam's quality-control manager, Sumaya Benitez Olmos.
Funsam produces 960 million bags per year out of high and low density PE, and plans to boost its annual capacity to 1.3 billion bags, Benitez said.
Funsam was founded in 2001 and employs 160 at its plant in Lerma, near Mexico City. The company has six Lemo bag-making machines and six Gloucester Engineering extruders.
Funsam also provides Mexico's largest supermarket chain, Wal-Mart Stores Inc., with plastic bags for use in the United States, but not biodegradable bags, Benitez said.
In a statement to shareholders, Soriana, which was founded in 1968 and employs 83,000, said the new bag will disintegrate within two years in the presence of microorganisms, oxygen, dampness and soil.