Mexico loves plastic, at least this part of Mexico does and the same seems to hold true for the regions we have visited (only a few to be sure).
Everywhere you’ll find chotskies being hawked with aplomb from stalls and individuals walking the malecon and the streets and all among the numerous vendors and small shops lining the streets.
The kids seems to love them. Brightly colored plastic animals pulled along by happy cherubs brings a smile to the face of all but the most Scrooge-like.
Yet, the presence of plastic is woven into the very fabric of commercial life here.
At least twice a week, I head to the mercado to visit what I think of as “my” salsa vendor. A lady with a table at the edge of the sidewalk in the commercial zone. Fresh salsa and beans available every day. Delicious!
When I go, I buy a little bit of a supply and this is what is handed to me when the transaction is complete.
A (very) inexpensive plastic bag with my purchased goodies inside. Easy to carry.
Unpackaging the contents leads to yet more plastic.
Yes, that the salsa. Each cup is carefully and skillfully wrapped in its own plastic bag and tightly tied at the top. (I’ve never been able to untangle the knot; hello, scissors.)
And finally, once the cup is revealed, it too is inside a plastic cup and top made by the standard-bearer of disposable cups, Dixie Cup. A “taste” of what used to be home.
So, all totaled, I come home with four individually-wrapped plastic Dixie cups, each in their own plastic bag, placed in a plastic shopping bag.
Now, I also buy beans here. They come in a more solid, yet still plastic tub with a lid. The two I buy are put in yet another plastic bag before going in the shopping bag.
I come one with six plastic bags, four plastic Dixie cups and lids and two plastic tubs with lids.
And I can tell you that the salsa vendor moves a lot of salsa and beans, every day.
Compound this with the hundreds, if not thousands, of street vendors and there’s a whole lot of plastic around here.
Moreover, as described in an earlier post, local custom is to drink bottled water. And, guess what, the bottle is plastic.
Plastic is often vilified by by environmentalists and alternative health practitioners as harmful to both the planet and to all types of life. I sympathize; I really do. Yet, living in Chapala, and being surrounded by plastic, I can also appreciate what drives its use here. It’s inexpensive. Every peso counts here for many people.
Also, if you care to observe how waste is handled here, you’ll see that the trash workers sort out the trash by hand, putting recyclables in huge cloth bags and then dropping them off at local recyclers. You’ll also see people on the streets picking up plastic bottles which they can take for recycling and earn a few pesos doing so.
Finally, for the really plastic-phobics, some good news. Scientists have recently created an enzyme that breaks down plastic rapidly.
But for right now, if you choose Chapala as a potential expat location, learn to love plastic. It’s everywhere here.