Lack Of Packaging And Containers Reinforces Ingenuity Of Cuba’s
Recyclers / EFE, 14ymedio
Plastic bags drying on a clothesline after being washed for reuse. (CC)
EFE (Via 14ymedio), Havana, 9 February 2017 — In Cuba, take-away pizza
is eaten on piece of paper, people go to the market with their own bags,
and rum bottles are reincarnated as sauce containers. It is not that the
country has an admirable environmental awareness, but that there is a
perpetual lack of packaging and containers that sharpens the island
By necessity, recycling has become a daily habit for Cubans, who never
forget to grab a jaba (bag) when they leave home, and even wash and dry
them to reuse until they are nothing but shreds.
“A Cuban is composed of head, trunk, limbs and jabita,” quipped a
comedian in a celebrated monologue that became popular in the Caribbean
country two decades ago.
This pressing demand explains the success of PACGRAF at the
International Fair celebrated this week in Havana “with the aim of
generating new business opportunities and working with the main buyers
and distributors for the production of packaging in Cuba,” according to
Nearly 50 companies from eleven countries have attended the event to try
to promote a sector that the Vice Minister of Industries, José Álvarez,
considered during his inauguration as “strategic to guaranteeing
economic development and especially boosting the pharmaceutical,
agro-food and tourism industries.”
The lack of packaging and containers is another face of Cuba’s daily
shortages, attributable to several factors depending on who is asking:
the official response is the United States trade embargo on the island
is responsible, while ordinary citizens blame the state apparatus for
its lack of foresight.
The Cuban government has invested more than 40 million dollars in
packaging, paper and cardboard, in the last three years, said the
director of Packaging and Containers of the Ministry of Industry, Juana
Iris Herrera, who anticipated a new investment to produce more carbdoard
Some packaging and containers are so complicated to get through normal
channels that they have become coveted objects of desire. Among them,
the large cardboard boxes used in international moves, which in Cuba
have the value of a war trophy.
Another example is the square pizza boxes. Some fortunate private
restaurants have found alternative “supply” routes and even have them
customized – and many charge for them at about 50 cents a box – but in
other places the calculations fail and they are suddenly without packaging.
“If there are no boxes, if they want pizza to take away, they have to
bring a plate,” explains the waitress of a private pizzeria in the
Havana neighborhood of Miramar.
Cans that drinks come in are cut in half to serve as containers for
flans and other delicacies sold in street stalls, and in the farm
markets rum bottles have a second life as containers for honey or spicy
“Cubans are sick of (addicted to) the bags,” says Ruben Valladares, a
freelancer who has been working for the last five years at the PACGRAF fair.
The company, which like so many entrepreneurs started as a precarious
and “rustic” home-based business, today supplies several state-owned
companies, numerous private businesses and even has become a peculiar
exponent of the thaw with the US through an alliance with Commonwealth
Packaging Company, a firm from the neighboring country that wanted to
bet on Cuba.
“The first packaging, a new relationship” is the slogan of this joint
Another company present at the fair is the Spanish Siepla, which sells
machines with technology to make plastic containers such as bottles,
decanters and jars.
“The needs of the country are immense, there is a lot of demand,” says
the sales manager of the firm, Josep Puig.
Bottles for soap, deodorant containers or containers for jam and honey
are some of the products that can be made with these machines, a
plethora of containers that will have a long life in Cuba, the country
where nothing is thrown out.
Source: Lack Of Packaging And Containers Reinforces Ingenuity Of Cuba’s
Recyclers / EFE, 14ymedio – Translating Cuba –