Impact Journalism Day by Sparknews: A better home - No. 5

Pretty good uses for discarded glass bottles

MEXICO CITY • The life of a bottle does not have to end in a bin.

Why can't it begin a new life as a piece of jewellery, or an ornament, or something useful?

That is the idea behind Cerrando el Ciclo (Closing the Cycle), a civil association set up in Mexico which has recycled tonnes of glass from bottles into necklaces, earrings, cufflinks and more.

 

Along the way, it has also provided hundreds of study grants and taken on and trained dozens of people in the heavily populated neighbourhood of Ciudad Nezahualcoyotl in the suburbs of Mexico City.

The mix of emerging middle class and poverty is as noticeable in Ciudad Nezahualcoyotl, sometimes described as the biggest slum in the world, as the contrast between the newly urbanised streets and the alleys where there is more mud than paving.

For good or bad, rubbish continues to build up and it is here that Cerrando el Ciclo can be found, encouraging the collection of glass bottles and exchanging them for basic household provisions.

The organisation either recycles the glass collected as ornamental or useful objects or passes it to a business which moulds it into new products such as bottles and jars.

Cerrando el Ciclo (Closing the Cycle), a civil association set up in Mexico, has recycled tonnes of glass from bottles into necklaces, earrings, cufflinks and more.
Cerrando el Ciclo (Closing the Cycle), a civil association set up in Mexico, has recycled tonnes of glass from bottles into necklaces, earrings, cufflinks and more. PHOTO: CERRANDO EL CICLO

The idea for recycling came from a desire to do something about the glass bottles that can be found strewn around the streets of the Mexican capital.

According to Mr Jose Luis Perez Gonzalez, its co-founder, it is estimated that in Mexico every inhabitant generates 900g of waste a day, varying from 400g in rural areas to around 1.5kg in urban areas. This works out to around 37 million tonnes of "rubbish" a year. This situation compels everyone to take measures, whether large or small, to combat this and to face up to the responsibility, he says.

It is still a struggle to get people to buy into the idea, though, for while there are rubbish collection centres and a growing trend towards recycling, the low cost of glass does not provide much of an incentive for it to be collected.

Even so, Ms Julia Novelo, the other co-founding partner of Cerrando el Ciclo, is optimistic.

Little by little, the organisation is making progress and it is preparing to set up permanent outlets to sell products ranging from jewellery to trays, vases, bracelets and even tables.

At the moment, it has six apprentices who are receiving training and preparing for the job. From May, some university students doing their work attachment are to join Cerrando el Ciclo, which would increase the number of employees to 15.

The current figures for Cerrando el Ciclo, which was founded in 2013, look small but they describe an activity which is growing.

"We have collected 3,722kg of recycled glass, trained 132 people, provided 57,709 pesos in grants and 2,417 people have felt the impact," says the organisation.

The current size of Cerrando el Ciclo does not seem to fit with its ambitions or with its impact but its founders are confident it will grow and be self-sustaining.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 25, 2016, with the headline 'Pretty good uses for discarded glass bottles'. Print Edition | Subscribe