PUERTO VALLARTA, MEXICO – Plastic bottle recycler Tecnopenales SA de CV is doubling the number of prison inmates it employs after investing $1 million in new equipment in the past year.
“Since last summer we've invested around $1 million in three different phases,” co-founder Octavio Victal Jr. told Plastics News in June, adding that “we have 110 inmates working on one shift. Next month we will start a second shift to employ at least double [the number]) of inmates.”
Launched in February, 2009, by Victal and his father, Octavio Victal Sr., the company appears to be unique in Latin America. It is apparently the only recycler in the region that operates within the walls of a penitentiary, in this case the Centro Integral de Justicia Regional Puerto Vallarta in western Mexico.
Victal Jr. said that in the past 12 months the company has upgraded its sorting system to incorporate larger sorting belts and mezzanines and installed a new de-labeling machine and a hot water bottle washer to clean bottles before regrind.
“With this equipment we ended up speeding our sorting process and achieving a better result in contamination agents,” Victal said.
“Next we installed a 180hp grinder to guarantee a production of two tons per hour. And finally we installed a brand new wash line that we started running last week. We are now producing sheet grade flake out of our landfill PET stream.”
According to Victal, the biggest challenge Tecnopenales faces today is finding sufficient supplies of raw material to enable the company to keep operating. “We have exhausted every supplier nearby,” he said. “We are now working on the supply of bottles from out of town.”