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Feature: The promise of plastics

As plans for plastic packaging recycling plants for London and the north of England begin to emerge, it seems the UK is finally getting to grips with this material. But in other parts of the world, plastic reprocessing
has already taken centre stage, with Central and South America taking full advantage of the commercial opportunities it brings.

In Brazil there are now more than 2,361 organis-ations operating in the recycling sector - a mixture of recyclers, scrap dealers, co-operatives and associations - and the main product processed is plastic, handled by 577 of the 722 recycling companies. Trailing behind are companies that recycle metal (60), paper (54) and long- life packages (14). Glass, batteries and tyres are recycled by another 15 companies.

Reported by the Brazil-Arab news agency, these
are the main results of the Recycling Map of Brazil, released by the Brazilian Micro and Small Business Support Service and the Entrepreneurial Commitment for Recycling (Cempre), a not-for-profit organisation dedicated to promoting recycling as part of integ-
rated waste management.

The research gives an up to date record of the co-operatives and com-panies that buy, sell and separate recyclable mat-erials from the north to the south of the country.

According to Dolores Lustosa, manager for envir-onment and the ecobusiness Nucleus at Sabrae, the idea is to stimulate business in the sector and bridge the gap between large recycling facilities and small suppliers such
as co-operatives and
associations of materials collectors.

"The great novelty in this study is the significant number of co-operatives and associations of collectors and recyclers, which demonstrates an increase in people seeking out this sector, especially people of lower
education," said André Vilhena, executive director
of Cempre.

According to Cempre, Brazil recycles about 10% of its urban solid residues, an average of 0.7kg per inhabitant per day. During 2004, the country recycled
49% of its total production of steel cans, 48% of PET, 46% of glass packaging and 39% of tyres.

And it is not just Brazil that has its eye on plastics. With a recycling rate of less than 1%, Mexico is hoping to double its recycling of PET plastic in an attempt to tackle the immense waste management problem it faces. Mexicans are the world's biggest consumers of sugary drinks and come second only to the US in their use of PET.

Only a small amount is recycled, being turned into carpets or clothing, but a new 'bottle to bottle' plant opened this summer is designed to recycle 20% of the PET bottles that would otherwise go to landfill or end up strewn round the country.

Only 17 out of 2,445 municipalities in Mexico deal with household waste properly. Environment minister Jose Luis Luege, who opened the plant, said that most of it ends up in rubbish pits or alongside the road in makeshift dumps. Left on the ground, PET bottles can be a breeding ground for mosquitoes that carry malaria and dengue fever.

The $20 million plant is near the city of Toluca and is run by Coca-Cola, Mexican bottler and brewer Femsa and Austrian bottle maker Alpla. Processing 90,000 bottles an hour, it will take it up to 25,000 tonnes
of PET a year and produce 15,000 tonnes of PET to be made back into bottles.


In Mumbai, India, thousands of plas

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