The production of single-use plastics has increased exponentially in recent decades and in Mexico, the volume of single-use plastic waste now exceeds the country's recycling capabilities. In response to growing concern over the effects that plastic waste may have on the environment, a series of legislative changes have recently been implemented.
For example, local congresses are considering a range of reforms to restrict plastic in their respective states. While the extent of such restrictions varies from state to state, most have agreed to introduce a complete ban on single-use plastic bags and straws.
In some states, the legislative changes may affect certain product manufacturing, packaging and labelling processes.
In Mexico, the three levels of government (ie, federal, state and municipal) regulate waste management. The General Law for the Prevention and Integral Management of Waste (LGPGIR) bestows powers on the federation and the states to regulate the handling of special management waste, including single-use plastics.
At the federal level, several initiatives have been presented in both chambers of Congress to reform the General Law of Ecological Balance and Environmental Protection and the LGPGIR in order to restrict the use of plastic bags, straws and other types of single-use plastic, the use of which is currently unrestricted.
The Chamber of Deputies has extended the discussion of such initiatives to 29 November 2019. The Chamber of Senators has referred the discussions to the Committee on the Environment, Natural Resources and Climate Change, where they remain pending.
More progress has been made at the state level. Most local congresses have presented initiatives and reforms that seek to establish policies and restrictions aimed at gradually reducing single-use plastic products and packaging.
In several states, such initiatives have already been approved and are either pending coming into force or already in force. Such is the case in Mexico City, Baja California, Baja California Sur, Chiapas, Chihuahua, Coahuila, Colima, Durango, Guerrero, Hidalgo, Jalisco, Nayarit, Nuevo Leon, Oaxaca, Quintana Roo, San Luis Potosi, Sonora, Tabasco, Tamaulipas, Veracruz and Yucatan.
These reforms aim to restrict the use of single-use plastics in commercial establishments and, while there are differences with regard to banned plastic products, all of the above states have banned the distribution and delivery of polystyrene bags and straws.
Further, some states have considered banning the use of expanded polystyrene in food and beverage containers, disposable cutlery, bottle caps and personal hygiene products.
Each state has established different deadlines for these prohibitions, which begin when the reforms enter into force. Once these deadlines expire, the prohibitions will come into force and penalties will be imposed on individuals and corporations that infringe the relevant provisions. For example, in Mexico City, the distribution and commercialisation of plastic bags will be banned from 2020, while the distribution and commercialisation of single-use plastics (eg, cutlery, balloons, cup lids, straws and products containing microplastics) will be banned from 2021.
In Quintana Roo, obliged parties must now operate under an extended responsibility regime with regard to special management waste and comply with labelling and waste-handling obligations, in addition to observing the general restriction on the distribution of single-use plastics.
In view of the above regulatory changes, the public has been pressuring the Federal Congress to reform the LGPGIR and regulate single-use plastic waste at the federal level, thereby unifying the various regulations and obligations deriving from the recent reform of waste laws at the state level.
If the proposed reform of the LGPGIR takes place, it will amend production and consumption standards in order to achieve a circular economy. It will also subject producers to an extended liability regime, forcing them to implement reverse logistics and recovery schemes and place ecolabels on their products to indicate their correct classification and separation. In turn, this will better facilitate the recovery of plastic waste and thus result in adequate treatment and recycling processes.
Companies should keep track of any waste-related initiatives introduced at the state and federal levels and prepare for upcoming changes to their obligations and any restrictions.
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