New recycling plant may help Mexico cope with litter and landfills

Mexicans lead the globe in gulping sugary drinks, but recycle only a thin sliver of the 9 billion PET (polyethylene terephthalate) bottles they use every year. Hoping to jump-start a national culture of recycling, Environment Minister Jose Luis Luege attended last week’s opening of a new recycling plant near the city of Toluca, which will handle 90,000 PET bottles an hour, or 25,000 tons a year. Luege hopes to see about 2.2 billion of the nation’s discarded PET bottles recycled in 2005. Mexico has barely begun to deal with the increasing amount of waste being generated by economic development: Only 17 out of 2,445 Mexican municipalities are dealing correctly with household waste, according to Luege, with most garbage going into open trash pits or being strewn along roadsides in unmanaged dumps. Discarded PET containers are both an eyesore and a public health problem: they can become breeding grounds for mosquitoes that carry malaria and dengue fever.