April 18, 2017 - Plastics Recycling Update
APR Member Highlight: PetStar and Invema
'Victorias y dificultades' in Latin American PET Recycling
Together, they provide museum tours, child health and education centers and adult financial literacy classes. Thousands of impoverished people rely on them for survival. But they’re not charities or social welfare programs – these Latin American programs are run by local plastics reclaimers.
“Today, I say that recycling is a clear solution out of poverty for our Central American countries and Latin America,” said George Gatlin, general director of Honduras-based Invema. “It offers a job to people of any age, any level of education, be it a man, be it a woman. They can go and have a better life because of recycling, and, as well, we provide a social solution to the problems that we have in Honduras.”
Gatlin was one of three speakers participating in a session focused on Latin America at the Plastics Recycling 2017 conference, which was held in early March in New Orleans. Joining him as speakers were Jaime Camara, founder and CEO of Mexico-based PetStar, and Jacobo Escriva, manager of the recycling division of Peru-headquartered San Miguel Industrias (SMI), a packaging producer.
PetStar, SMI and Invema are trailblazers in their respective markets. Their growth mirrors the advancement of plastics recycling overall in Latin America, a region with nearly twice the population of the United States.
“All Latin American countries are really growing collection drastically,” said Camara, who sits on the board of the Association of Plastic Recyclers (APR). “And, of course, the whole plastics recycling industry, specifically PET, is truly advanced and evolving.”
As CEO of PetStar, Camara heads what is described as the world’s largest food-grade PET recycling plant, located near Mexico City.
A fully integrated reclaimer with a stated capacity of 40,000 metric tons per year of post-consumer food-grade PET, PetStar is able to exceed its stated production limit by 25 percent, Camara said. That’s because it controls the feedstock supply, operating eight collection plants with 700 employees and 150 trucks.
Overall, his company has 1,000 direct employees. That number doesn’t include the estimated 24,000 pickers who supply PET bottles to PetStar collection trucks, which haul them to company facilities for sorting and baling.
“We offer [pickers] certainty,” Camara said. “We offer them what we call the PetStar inclusive collection model: fair income without intermediaries.”
PetStar has also embarked on social development efforts. For example, in a poor quarter of Mexico City, it offers educational, food and health services to 250 children of pickers, an effort the company is about to replicate in three other Mexican cities, Camara said. The aim is to reduce children’s role in picking by giving them a formal education.
Camara emphasized efforts to reduce PetStar’s carbon footprint and water usage, prevent plastics leakage to the natural environment and decrease waste. He also stressed the importance of delivering a profit to investors.
“In order to be truly sustainable, you have to be profitable,” he told the audience. “Otherwise, you will not endure.”