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Octubre de 2020 Página 1 de 2

We put ourselves in a situation where we must take recycling seriously: George Gatlin, Invema

Dr.-Ing. Laura Flórez

Recycling is relevant for its environmental impact, but also in Latin America because of the income it represents for thousands of families. Its growth depends on it integrating vertically with the production of mass consumer goods.

To see George Gatlin speaking is to see a recycling ambassador, convinced and passionate about its environmental impact and social impact. Someone who has taken their work seriously, not only to create a thriving business, but to change lives. Gatlin is the CEO of Grupo Invema, a Waste Recycler based in Honduras, and with a sister company in El Salvador, which currently employs 400 people and recycles all types of non-organic waste. It has a processing capacity of 12,000 tons per month, and the sixth most important line of its production are PET bottles.

Invema had its beginnings in the early part of the 1990s, with two employees working on collecting aluminum cans. Since then, it has grown sustainingly, and today is the largest recycler in Central America, and the only supplier in the recycled PET food grade region for Coca-Cola, Pepsi, and Nestlé.

The rPET produced is sold to several domestic and international customers, who use it for the manufacture of packaging with 100% recycled content. Invema also produces rPET sheet for thermoformed PET packaging, from bottle flakes, under the brand name "lu'um".

Income for thousands of families

The recycling industry is especially relevant in Latin America because it protects a vulnerable population, dignifying and professionalizing their work. For some people and in some media it is the only source of income. To collect their raw material, Gatlin developed a national collection network, where people of any age, level of education or gender are compensated equally and fairly. "In Honduras, recycling is a way of life, and provides livelihoods for thousands of people. We have a lot of poverty here, and recycling is a solution for people," he adds. With its work, the company impacts nearly 800,000 people.

Perhaps one of the keys to Invema's success is that it not only recovers PET but has opened the door to the recovery of different types of plastic, metal, paper, and electronic waste. The company also has a monthly education program for its providers, where they can learn about financial stability, to ensure their continued growth.

KEY FACT: 6,6% It is the expected growth of the plastics recycling industry between 2019 and 2027, according

In addition, the company has one of the largest solar energy systems in Latin America, producing about 2 megawatts of electricity through 5,600 solar panels, saving about 40% of its production. Wastewater is also treated and reused within the process.

In 2016, Invema invested in a Starlinger PET 125 HC iV+ for bottle-to-bottle recovery, with a processing capacity of 8,000 tons of regranules per year. With this technology, Invema has secured a place in the supply of the demanding carbonated beverage market, fulfilling its objective of "providing our suppliers with the best market for their scrap and delivering to our customers eco-friendly products on time and with a quality that gives them confidence",according to Gatlin. The company has purchased a second line to increase its processing capacity, which will be delivered in March 2021.

Gatlin also acquired food grade sheet manufacturing technology with Starlinger's viscoSHEET rPET extrusion line, which features a DECON reactor for the decontamination of its flakes.

"There is no reason to prevent infinite recycling of plastic, technology exists".

A team effort

"We've gotten ourselves into a situation where we need to make a change, and that starts with taking recycling seriously," says George Gatlin. In the summer of 2020, Invema, along with its business partner Lacerta Group, Inc. based in Mansfield, USA, released an eye-catching video clip in which George Gatlin and Lacerta's director, Mostafa Lotfi, explain how recycling works and expose their vision of how a vertically integrated business model can lead the way in the packaging industry.

One of the reasons that destabilizes recycling is the fluctuating price of virgin plastic, adjusted according to oil price. "In 2011 the price of the barrel was $100. At that time the price of recycled raw material was high, and we achieved recovery rates close to 84%. This is more than the Scandinavian countries," Gatin says. Today, the price is less than half. And people's incomes have been reduced proportionately. Therefore, Gatlin is a fervent promoter of vertical recycling integration in order to maintain a more stable income for people.

"The most important thing is to believe in technology and not be afraid to invest. Technology today allows us to recycle plastic infinite times," says George Gatlin. "If the consumer is aware, if the industry is aware, if we invest in equipment, processes in the right way, there is no doubt that recycling can work. But it must be a team effort."

Palabras relacionadas:
Recycling, environmental impact, Grupo Invema, Waste Recycler, Honduras, George Gatlin, recycled PET, PET packaging, The recycling industry, Starlinger PET 125 HC, Erema, Intarema ZeroWastePro system, Polystar, Polystar technology.

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