By Zoilo Carrillo / Mexico City (EFE).- The so-called “containers of the future,” made from recycled materials, are being touted not only as an alternative and solution to packaging problems but also as the road to follow to alleviate environmental contamination by plastic waste resulting from mass production models.
“The containers of the future will allow (us) to try and reverse problems like polluting emissions and the excessive use of natural resources and energy,” Florent Bouchonneu, the marketing development manager for the Dow petrochemical firm in Mexico, told EFE.
He said that, over the next decade, keeping in mind the scientific forecasts regarding climate change, the design of packaging containers “must be subject to sustainability.”
In that regard, various concepts and models come into play, including “ecodesign and the circular economy,” based on the reuse of materials. And, in that sense, recycling is the essential pillar that includes “giving a circular use to prime materials, to plastics.”
Bouchonneau said that in some cases – by recyling already-used packaging materials – the amount of new plastic used to produce containers can be reduced by 15 percent to 30 percent.
“The materials can be recovered, shredded (and) washed so they can once again be pelletized (converted into tiny pellets) that later are reused” in making other bottles and containers, he said.
Bouchonneau added that one success story in the plastic industry in Mexico is that of Industria Mexicana de Coca-Cola (IMCC) and its PetStar recycling plant, since the recycling collection model it uses – developed by Tereftalato for food grade polyethylene (PET) – is one of the most complete and advanced in the world and the firm is
the main recycler of this material in Mexico.
Of the 56 percent of all PET collected in Mexico, IMCC accounts for 35 percent via its two recycling plants – PetStar and IMER – which have the capacity to process more than 85,000 tons of the material per year.
In like manner, IMCC has managed to ensure that 43 percent of its containers are comprised of recycled materials, providing an example of commitment to the circular economy and ensuring that by reusing the materials from each container over and over again, the firm can avoid producing 25 “new” containers.
Bouchonneau also emphasized the company’s innovations in ecodesign and production of sustainable packaging using already-recycled materials, whereby the materials in millions of bottles can be used multiple times.
The company’s aim by 2030 is to be collecting and recycling the equivalent of 100 percent of its containers to get to a “Trash-free World.”
That goal coincides with the policies being pushed by the Mexican government with its “Zero Trash” plan, which has recycling as one of its main pillars.
Bouchonneau also explained that there are plastics that are more “difficult to recycle” but that can be used to create innovative solutions to other problems.
For example, some plastics can be “converted into asphalt carpeting” for use in recovering streets and highways.
Even post-consumption plastic can be transformed into bricks, as is already being done to build “schools in marginalized communities in countries like Colombia, Brazil and Mexico.”
But, despite the efforts currently under way, Bouchonneau said that “to increase recycling, first you have to improve the level of plastic collection and that means, first, that we have to do it with our domestic waste.”
“The less urban trash is separated … that complicates the recycling and processing procedures,” he said.
In some places in Mexico, trash is separated into four categories – organic, non-recyclable inorganic, recyclable inorganic and special handling – although some countries separate their trash into up to 40 categories, depending on the culture and responsibility the public feels for helping create a trash-free world, Bouchonneau said.
With an eye on the coming decade, he said that “We’re working hard to offer solutions to industry with recycled material and technologies that can help there to be no plastic contamination in the environment.”