Stiff penalties, including jail, for giving away non-biodegradable plastic bags in commercial establishments went into effect in Mexico City at a minute past midnight Aug. 18.
The law took effect because none of the amendments that Mexico's plastics industry has lobbied for since the passing of the Ley de Residuos SÃ³lidos (Solid Wastes Law) in March 2009 has been approved by the city's Legislative Assembly.
Legislators could have convoked an extraordinary meeting of the assembly Aug. 17 to debate and vote on a series of amendments proposed earlier in the day by several of the assembly's commissions, said Eduardo Martínez Hernandez, president of plastics industry association Anipac.
But instead, they considered it more important to remain on vacation, he said. The assembly's 66 members will return from summer break in early September.
Martínez said the penalties for breaking the law, including 36 hours in jail and fines of $4,500 to $118,000, still stand.
Anipac (Asociacón Nacional de Industrias del Plastico AC) has lobbied hard over the past 18 months in favor of plastic bag recycling programs rather than an outright ban.
Martínez said he understands that the three commissions, including the Environment Preservation and Ecological Protection Commission, propose to rid the city's landfill sites of all plastics, including biodegradable bags, within 10 years, thus indirectly supporting recycling.
They have also proposed removing the jail penalty from the law, although they left the heavy fines in, he added.
Last month Martínez said Mexico City Mayor Marcelo Ebrard might veto all penalties, even if the Legislative Assembly insisted on keeping them. And if there are no penalties, the law doesn't exist, he added.
But the vacation period has prevented the city's commerce representatives from meeting with Ebrard and legislators to clarify the situation, he said.