Mexico City — Braskem Idesa is known for making virgin polyethylene. But the firm also wants people to start thinking of the company more in terms of sustainability.
To help drive that point across, Braskem Idesa made a splash around Plastimagen with the placement of 15 reverse vending machines accepting both used PET bottles and aluminum cans.
The kiosks, which include Braskem Idesa signage, are the work of a company called BioBox, which provides them as a way for recyclers to earn points that can be used toward purchases or discounts. The points also can be donated to charity.
At Plastimagen, Braskem Idesa teamed up with BioBox to help a children's cancer charity called La Alianza Anticancer Infantil. While traditional BioBoxes give users the option of earning points for themselves or donating proceeds to charity, the 15 machines at Plastimagen were all set up to benefit the charity.
There was also a team of helpers to explain the machines and promote their use by exhibition attendees, said Alfredo Prince, commercial director for Braskem Idesa in Mexico City.
"What we are trying to do is educate the people, trying to do small things to start influencing the importance of recycling," Prince said. "Not just polyethylene ... it's every kind of plastic," he said, that should be recycled.
"I think that we're educating people with the importance of recycling, and at the same time, we're supporting an important cancer fundraising foundation," he said.
The level of plastics recycling in Mexico might be surprising to those who do not live in the country, but Prince said even more can be done.
About 60 percent of PET bottles are recycled in Mexico, compared with about 30 percent in the United States.
"This is part of the small things we can do to help with this very important topic. We believe plastics are necessary for the helping of human beings, how we can improve people's lives," he said. "We're also doing our piece so we can get to this circular economy.
"It's just how we can get involved ... to make sure we can improve, help and have an impact," Prince said.
BioBox has a network of reverse vending machines in and around Mexico City, including units at Braskem Idesa's office, said César Augusto Rangel Garcia, a sustainability official with the company.
"All the employees, they contribute. They bring all the bottles from home. They collect bottles from all over, they find them and bring them to the office," said company spokesman Armando Vera. "They are very happy to cooperate and help this alliance against cancer. It's been a very successful program at the office."
Braskem Idesa also has a reverse vending machine at the company's PE manufacturing site in Veracruz that's been operating for about two months.
Pushing sustainability at Plastimagen is part of the virgin PE maker's efforts to become more involved in recycling.
"Now we want to get into recycling. We're looking at ways we can do this. We're actively looking at ways of helping," Prince said.
"It's something new for us; we're learning," he said. "But I think it's very exciting to be part of this to make sure we can find a way to make a good impact."