Nayarit Entrepreneur Finds New Purpose With Recycling Startup
Maya Piedra - GPJ Mexico
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February 4, 2024

Eleno Ulloa sorts recyclable plastic at his recycling company in Las Varas, Nayarit — one of the Mexican states that recycles the least. (Maya Piedra/GPJ Mexico)

Eleno Ulloa inherited his interest in recycling from his maternal grandmother. Together, they would rummage through the garbage dumps in his hometown of Paso de las Palmas, Nayarit. At the age of 5, a terrible accident befell Ulloa when he tried to recover a doll from the summit of a mountain of garbage, not knowing that a fire burned inside. His cousin happened to hear his screams and found him, but not before he was left with serious burns on his feet.

That incident did not deter him from hunting down discoveries in the heaps of trash. “I showered my sister with toys. One time, I found a stuffed teddy bear this tall,” Ulloa says, holding his hand roughly a meter above the ground.

With a speech condition that affects his ability to express himself fluently, and after suffering through two deportations from the United States, Ulloa currently runs one of the few recycling businesses in Nayarit, a state with one of the lowest recycling rates in Mexico, according to a report from Asociación Nacional de Industrias del Plástico, an association that promotes the plastics industry.

He got his start in 2018, driving a car through the streets of the town, announcing that he was purchasing plastic. “People thought I was crazy to go out collecting plastic,” he says. After making his announcements every day for three months, he succeeded in getting people to begin picking plastic items off the streets and selling them.

With three employees, the recycling plant Eleno Ulloa founded in 2018 in Las Varas, Nayarit, packs and sells nearly 4.5 tons of plastic per week.

Mexico is one of Latin America’s top importers of plastic, mostly from the US and China, and these imports doubled between 2015 and 2021. This was partially due to a 2018 decision by China — historically one of the world’s top destinations for solid waste — to ban the import of 24 types of solid waste, some of which are plastics.

In 2019, Mexico only recycled 50% of the 4.5 million tons of plastic it produced that year.

Now, Ulloa’s company employs three people and collects approximately 4.5 tons of plastic per week from 40 towns and villages along the coast of Nayarit and sells them to a recycling plant in nearby Guadalajara.

But the journey he took to get to this point was not easy.

Read the rest at GPJ Mexico

Related: Congress Commemorates 107th Anniversary of the Constitution of Mexico and Nayarit as a Free and Sovereign State (Miguelangel Luna)

Related: Why the Mexican Constitution Is Worth Celebrating (Mexico News Daily)

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