Dow Chemical Co.'s director of plastic sales in Mexico has launched a blistering attack on biodegradable technology as a means of fighting plastic waste.
Many think biodegradation is the solution to our problems, but it isn't, Jorge Barreda, Dow Química Mexicana's director of plastic sales, told a Mexico City forum on plastics sustainability March 16.
Speaking in the name of 11 companies in Mexico, including Dow, that have agreed jointly to promote actions such as the forum to increase the sustainability of plastics, Barreda said he doubts the biodegradable claims of certain plastic resin manufacturers.
The biodegradability of any plastic material should be proven in laboratories and real conditions.
In a reference to legislation that aims to ban polyethylene bags in Mexico City later this year and could subsequently see the mandatory inclusion of biodegradable agents in all packaging in the Mexican capital, he said such measures have failed to reduce plastic's impact on the environment in other countries.
Our main challenge is to increase the rates of recovery and recycling of plastics.
The public, he said, has been misinformed about the negative impact of plastic on the environment and plastic is paying the price today in terms of image. This should not have happened.
Arturo Davila, executive director of Sustenta AC, a private sector organization formed in 1997 by Bimbo, Coca-Cola, Pepsi Cola, L'Oreal and Procter & Gamble to reduce the impact of solid waste on the environment, blamed Mexico's 2,440 municipalities for insufficient compliance of legislation regarding rubbish separation.
As for Mexican society in general, he said that people don't care about separating rubbish, while, in his opinion, the industrial sector has been guilty of insufficient participation in finding a solution.
Lourdes Aduna Barba, president of the national ecology commission of Mexico's employers association COPARMEX (Confederacón Patronal de la República Mexicana), told the forum that in the Federal District of Mexico City, only 6 percent of the 26 millon pounds of waste generated in a single day is recycled.
But César Rafael Chavez Ortiz, head of environmental development at Mexico's Environment and Natural Resources Ministry (SEMARNAT), said the best way to handle waste is by administering it at a metropolitan, inter-municipal or regional level.
Waste collection has to be professionalized to make it less vulnerable to changes in government.
Luis Héctor Barojas Weber, head of industry at SEMARNAT, said the authorities, society and industry have a shared responsibility for separating and recycling plastic.
It's a real headache for the whole country. The collection of plastic by municipal governments is dreadful.
Martha Ruth del Toro Gaytan, environment minister for the western state of Jalisco, and Roger Echeverría CalderÃ³n, director of municipal public services in the southeastern city of Mérida, described how both entities tackle the problem of waste separation.
And Del Toro said Jalisco is monitoring the bag-ban legislation in Mexico City closely.
Juan Antonio Hernandez, president of Industriales de Bolsas Plasticas de México AC (Inboplast), who was at the forum as a guest, told Plastics News outside the forum:
I know of no other city in the world where such a law has been imposed [without consulting the plastics industry]. It's a populist measure. It has not been done properly and has caused a lot of confusion. The problem is that it's being copied by a lot of other states in Mexico.
Inboplast's 40 member companies, present in 10 states, produce 77 million pounds of PE plastic bags per month, 60 percent of the national total, according to Hernandez.
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