Mexico City — Juan Antonio Hernández is half angry, half scornful.
"We spent a year in Nuevo León promoting recycling, talking to state legislators and business people," he said. "Things were going well."
But in late March, the state Congress voted to ban plastic bags in all commercial establishments.
The northern Mexico state of Nuevo León, whose capital city is Monterrey, is one of Mexico's most important industrial entities.
"The proposed penalty for breaking the law is even more draconian than for Huachicoleros," Hernández said, referring to the criminals who siphon gasoline from Mexico's pipelines, a dangerous practice that caused the deaths of 120-130 people earlier this year. "It's totally ridiculous."
While the proposed legislation still has to be signed into law by Gov. Jaime (Bronco) Rodríguez Calderón, Hernández has little doubt he will do it.
Hernández is a former president of Inboplast, an association of bag manufacturers who account for 75 percent of all the T-shirt bags produced in Mexico. He also recently completed his two-year term as president of Anipac, Mexico's major plastics industry association.
According to Hernández, Anipac has met six times with federal senators, civilian groups and academics in the past few months in an effort to produce norms for trash disposal and recycling. He said the seventh and final meeting will take place in April, and the senators will start work on drafting norms to be applied across Mexico.
He's optimistic that the country will be able to standardize the treatment of waste but points out a similar effort in 2003 came up short.
If Nuevo León's governor does sign the legislation into law, Monterrey will be the second major city in Mexico to ban plastic bags in commercial outlets after Querétaro, which banned them in August.