Mexico's plastics industry grew 10 percent to just over $20 billion in 2011, measuring processed products, resins and equipment.
The trend will continue in 2012, according to Eduardo Martínez Hernández, president of industry association Anipac. But Martínez is reluctant to predict what the growth will be.
Growth has been a constant for the plastics industry in Mexico, according to Anipac (Asociación Nacional de Industrias del Plástico AC). In fact, the only time the sector registered a downturn, to Martínez's knowledge, was in 1995, the year after a bungled government devaluation of the peso sparked an economic crisis across Latin America.
The executive finds it strange, therefore, that the plastics industry still has a tough time convincing the government that it is worth fomenting and supporting financially.
“There's no political strategy to encourage the development of capital goods for the plastics industry in Mexico, for example,” Martínez said Jan. 20. “The industry would grow much faster if there were. Even Taiwan, an island 245 miles long, builds more machinery than we do.”
Plastics has “never really been considered an important industry by the government,” he added.
Yet the sector, which includes about 4,200 processors, has gone from accounting for 1 percent of Mexico's gross national product in 2000 to 3 percent of GNP today, Martínez told a news conference.
The automotive industry accounted for one of the largest chunks of revenue, bringing in $4 billion (20 percent of the total) in 2011, he said.
Individual plastic items manufactured in Mexico for the automotive industry totaled 6 million pieces in 2005, 112 million in 2010 and 177 million through October 2011. “We expect production for the automotive industry in 2011 to be 80 percent higher than in 2010,” Martínez said.
Mexico assembled an unprecedented 2.6 million light vehicles in 2011, 13.1 percent more than the 2.3 million built in 2010. Most of the products — ranging from hub caps to steering wheels — made for the automotive industry by processors in Mexico are supplied to vehicle-assembly operations within the country, although some are exported.
Despite Martínez's concerns about the government's level of commitment to the plastics industry, Anipac had some success in its dealings with the authorities in 2011.
The most notable was its lobbying of the Mexico City government, which it persuaded to lift a ban on plastic bags in retail outlets and move toward recycling.
In January, the city authorities announced a sweeping overhaul of their solid-waste-collection policy and said this year they will open 700 public depositories across the city of 9 million to receive, separate and recycle garbage.
In a separate news release, Martínez and Carlos Alberto Saldate Patón, president of the association's 40-company recyclers section, urged the federal government and lawmakers to make recycling operations more attractive to current and would-be investors by introducing tax concessions, first proposed in 2008.