• Maria Perez

Acting against single use plastics

Updated: Mar 24, 2019




Introduction

Our planet faces massive challenges in the social, economic and environmental aspects. To fight these and have a real impact to the world, the UN created the Sustainable Development Goals derived from the Millenium goals, with the difference that all UN Members signed it.

This paper shows what Mexico is doing about the pollution in oceans due to plastic that related to goal 12: responsible production and consumption, goal 13: climate action and goal 14: life below water; and some possible solutions for Japanese enterprises and government to help make a change in this matter.

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Mexico

Mexico current GDP in 2017 was about USD$1.5 trillion, one of the strongest in Latin America, with a percentage growth of 2 to 3 percentage annually, according to the World bank data. Its geographical position is key for commerce to other parts of the world, Specially to the United States, Latin America and the southeast Asia.


Mexico is the 9th largest export economy in the world with USD$394 billions exports. Also, it big leading export partner is the United States (80%), followed by China (3%), Germany and China (2% each) and Japan is the 5th. Particularly, Mexico is the home of car manufacturers as Nissan, Mercedes Benz, GM and much more. The country has been promoting investment in this area with cheap labor and massive production of car parts. Also, Mexico is very well known for its food and tasty avocados and tequila. Regarding imports, these are coming from the United States, China and Japan, adding a total of USD $409 billion.

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The challenge

Humankind is polluting water in rivers and lakes faster than nature can recycle and purify. According to the Ocean Plastic Charter “Plastics are one of the most revolutionary inventions of the past century and play an important role in our economy and daily lives”.

However, the current approach to produce and consume (as goal #12 says) poses a significant threat to the environment and even potentially to human health. According to the United Nations Environment Programme (2018) named “Single-Use Plastics: A roadmap for sustainability. All around the

world there has been some regulations to ban the use of single plastics bags.

The success of the 2030 agenda (sustainable development goals) depends largely on the active participation of the private sector. We need to consider entrepreneurs not only as “objects” of development but fundamentally as “subjects” who actively participate in the fulfillment of the new commitments.

According to Paulina Perez, an environmental expert, in an interview, the transition from an imposed regulation toward a new lifestyle for the community takes about a year, if it’s intensively done. And new habits of consumption could be pushed from the government side (just as in Austin, Texas), or it could first happen through the privet sector, (just like happened with Houston, Tx).

Mexico has began many initiatives to implement the SDGs with a long-term vision. The Finance and Public Credit Secretariat have analyzed the federal budget to identify which items contribute to the implementation of each goal. According to the “Voluntary National Review For the high-level political forum on sustainable development”, this analysis revealed that in the 2018 federal budget, 80.7% of Budgetary Programs (or BP’s) are connected to the 2030 Agenda.

With the SDGs, Governments call on all kinds of businesses -small, medium and big size to sum up and to apply their creativity and innovation to solve sustainable development challenges. Yet the success of the Sustainable development goals relies heavily on action and collaboration by all stakeholders.

Mexico has joined efforts to say sayonara to single use plastic in some provinces. For example, Querét Want to add a caption to this image? Click the Settings icon. aro, Baja California and Veracruz had ban plastic bags and straws. While in Sonora, Durango, Nuevo Leon, Jalisco and Mexico City had presented some initiatives to pass this law.




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But has been easy for society to change the mindset and embrace the ban?

In an interview with me, Regina Cabal, an innovation consultant who has been living in Querétaro since the ban of plastic bags, told me that it appears that the changed looked like happening from one day to another. For every business, small or big, they just disappear all track of plastic, but for the citizens the change has been a little more complicated than that. The willing to make the change is there, but the opportunities and new ways to make this work gets more difficult.

In another interview with the Founder and Designer of FluitFlyBags.com, Janna Alcaraz, a Mexican-American living in Cancun, she stated that the ecologists that are worried about ocean pollution are not entirely against plastic, because it has been a great invention for this era. Nonetheless, the worst part is the SINGLE USE of the plastic, and that’s what it is harming the environment. Therefore, he enterprise is trying to fight agains the single use plastic with reusable bags, easy to carry and very resistant.

According to INEGI (The national Institute of Statistics and Information in Mexico), plastic bags are the “thing” that households re-use the more. But, the site only shows the percentage of which one is the most re-usable but not the information of how much volume is actually re-used.

That’s been a problem for some families that does not know how to recycle, or even sort the garbage in different containers for the government to recycle. Regina Cabal also told me in her interview that when the ban of plastic bags began in Querétaro, they called a government official to train the neighborhood in how to properly sort the garbage and what to do for the organic containers and non-burnable containers.

Nevertheless, he told the neighbors that once the garbage truck gather the garbage from the community, they drop everything in the Center, and everything mixes again. So in the end, the municipal is not ready yet to properly take advantage of the efforts of the community in terms of recycling. The site INEGI also represents this concern in the following graph.


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Solutions

With two simple options, starting with Option A:

Plastic bags are wonderful,But as any other great thing, the extreme consumption is awful.Now, the consumption of plastic bags are suffocating the planet. and we NEED to start changing our consumption habits. One of the ways to do so, is trying to take advantage of the practices of some enterprises that are today trying to make a change.

For example, If you live in Paris or New York City you will be able to buy ice cream or shampoo in a reusable container. That’s the project Terracyle -with the collaboration of major companies like Nestle, Procter & Gamble, Unilever and PepsiCo are behind. “Loop” is a new zero-waste platform that will be launched this spring (2019). Another initiative is NextWave leaders by Ikea and HP to reduce ocean-bound plastics.

And What’s happening with Japan?

According to UN News, Us, Japan and the European Union are the biggest plastic waste producers per capita . But Japan focus on recycling PET bottles. Supermarket chain Aeon Co. has been promoting since 1991 eco-friendly practices, such as “bring your own shopping bag campaign”, bioplastic shopping bags and BAGs made from 100% recycle PET bottles.

As I mentioned in the second video, some cities (not only in Mexico, but in other parts of the world) are banning the use of plastic bags and straws. MOST CERTAINLY Everybody would like to reduce the amount of plastic in the ocean, But getting people to change what they’re doing today is really hard.

There should be another solution different from waiting to somebody else in changing the mindset.

Hence Option B:

Do you know that more than 30 different Japanese companies are located in a single province in central Mexico, named Aguascalientes? There is a website in “Empresas Japonesas” at E-servicios Aguascalientes where you can see all the Japanese enterprises located in the Province of Aguascalientes and the city of Aguascalientes.

Here’s one idea… what about if Aguascalientes government and the Japanese government create an alliance in order to promote the use of bioplastic from Japanese companies, but also, help make a smoother transitions toward bioplastic, or a plastic free city.

The global Bioplastics market was estimated at 3,123.24 kilo tons in 2017. For Asia Pacific was estimated at 489.36 kilo tons 2017. The global market for bioplastic is $5.8 billion, according to Bioplastics News.

But you know that bio plastics does not always means biodegradable. That’s why I would like to introduce another two Mexican companies that are doing bio-produced cutlery. Specially Biofase, through its patented technology, are creating biodegradable plastic from the avocado seed, and became the only biopolymers producer company in Mexico. They are truly visionaries because Mexico produces 300,000 pounds of avocados, or about 50% of the world's supply. Biofase use what it seems industrial waste for some people, to do a business out of it, helping the planet.

They re truly visionaries. Now they are also exporting their products to eleven different countries (Biofase website). Just as Ecoshell, they use also sugar cane to create their bags, and cutlery and are a much bigger (and older) company than Biofase.

What if bio-plastics Japanese companies take into consideration what these two Mexican enterprises are doing in order to extend the production and export to Japan -or work together to have more bio-degradable products instead of bio-plastic with an petroleum origin?

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Conclusion

Although there have been much more concern about what we are doing to our planet, actions must be performed. Specially if something is began via the government or via the enterprises, the citizens will not have a difficult time to smooth the transition to a more eco-friendly habit. Specially businesses have the power to influence in customer practices by giving them options to change their consumption habits.

As an individual, you can also make difference, jin in the #cleanseas campaign, join your Plogging community to pick up street garbage while running, say “no thank you” to plastic bags whenever you go shopping, or make activities with your community to make a more conscious consumption habit.

Still there is a lot to do in order to achieve our goals in the SGDs, but I believe that this is a special era, because it provide links to connect those who dare. Those who get together to work in something that can change the world: our world, our community, our home.

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