By THÉRÈSE MARGOLIS
Every year, the world consumes nearly 300 million tons of non-biodegradable plastic, and in Mexico alone, the annual consumption of PET (polyethylene terephthalate) plastic – the most common type of plastic for disposable beverage and food containers, as well as for household cleaner containers – is nearly 13 million tons.
In fact, according to environmentalist Paulina Cornejo, head of the social design program for environmental affairs at Mexico City’s Universidad Centro, Mexico is the world’s largest consumer per capita of bottled water.
And while federal legislation made it mandatory to separate all household and industrial trash in order to allow it to be recycled, less than 30 percent of the county’s refuse ever makes it to a recycling bin, and less than 18 percent of plastic is recycled.
“This is a sad situation that is literally drowning the nation in waste,” Cornejo said during a press conference last week organized by Tupperware and Universidad Centro to introduce a nationwide campaign to encourage people to trade out disposal plastic and Styrofoam packaging for reusable food and drink storage containers.
“There are currently 74 trash dumps in and around Mexico City, and every single one of them is overloaded.”
Cornejo went on to say that the accumulation of unrecycled plastic and other waste is taking a toll on Mexico’s oceans, rivers and land.
“A full 95 percent of flooding in Mexico is the direct result of the inappropriate disposal of garbage,” she said.
“And we have all seen the video of how plastic straws are killing turtles. Unrecycled plastic straws and plastic bags are killing our precious wildlife, and we all have a moral obligation to help curb the output of plastic waste.”
The United Nations Joint Group of Experts on the Scientific Aspects of Marine Pollution (GESAMP) estimates that land-based sources account for up to 80 percent of the world’s marine pollution, and between 60 and 95 percent of that waste is plastic debris.
Household consumption and disposal of trash accounts for nearly half of all garbage produced in Mexico, Cornejo said, and nearly 92 percent of that trash could be recycled for reuse.
“But getting people to recycle is not easy,” she admitted.
“To begin with, even when they do sort their trash into appropriate piles, the trash collectors often just throw those piles together into a big heap of garbage.”
Also, Cornejo said that people are often lured by the convenience of throw-away containers, be it for their morning coffee, their grocery purchases or their take-out for lunch or dinner.
“On average, every Mexican uses 650 plastic bags a year, and the average usage time of each of those bags is 12 minutes,” she said.
“Most of those bags end up in the trash, uncycled.”
But Tupperware, the U.S.-based kitchen and home contain product line that has been around since 1942, has just launched a new campaign in Mexico to promote the use of reusable food and drink containers in order to reduce plastic consumption nationwide.
The campaign, titled #EnMiTupperPorfa (#InMyTupperPlease), asks consumers to take a reusable Tupperware thermos to buy their coffee, to take reusable Tupperware containers to place their purchases at the supermarket and to take reusable Tupperware vessels to replace commercial wrapping at fast-food restaurants.
#EnMiTupperPorfa, which the company will be promoting across Mexico throughout the rest of 2019, has already gotten support from numerous restaurants and companies, including Burger King, which is offering two-for-the-price-of-one Whoppers throughout the month of May to anyone who brings their own recyclable containers to receive the food.
“In order to stop the production of plastic and other waste and to encourage more recycling, it is going to take a major effort from all sectors of society,” Cornejo admitted.
“But for now, we can all do our part and put our grain of sand toward making Mexico safer for the environment and for all of us. The #EnMiTupperPorfa program is a very good place to start.”