Examples from Europe: New recycling rules in Spain


At the beginning of 2023, a new law came into force in Spain, adopted in the spring of 2022. With it, recycling becomes the rule, while the disposal of general garbage should be the exception.

Why encouragement is needed?

The serious measures have been taken because Spain has a below average level of recycling for the European Union. According to EAE Business School, an average of 52% is recycled or reused in the Bloc, 8.7% more than in Spain.

This is probably happening for several reasons. One of them is the lack of sufficient information campaigns. Also the different types and shapes of containers located in different Spanish cities are confusing. Besides all this, the environmental movement is not so strong in the country.

Spain is home to some of the biggest fast fashion companies in the world. Inditex, Zara’s parent company, and Barcelona-based giant Mango produce low-priced clothes that depreciate quickly and cannot be repaired. ‎This generates tons of waste that is not recycled.

In Spain, the cities are generally quite clean, although in the evening one can see a lot of cigarette butts, tin cans and other waste thrown on the street, but in the evening the streets are cleaned and in the morning there is no sign of the garbage. To achieve that, a high price is paid. The daily newspaper El Diario has estimated that the cost of garbage collection and urban cleaning services in Madrid is now 70% higher than before the pandemic. It is estimated that each of the city’s residents generates 363.8 kg of garbage per year.

The new stricter measures

Spain has a long way to go before it reaches Sweden’s 99% recycling rates. From 2023, a new tax on single-use plastic packaging will be introduced. A rate of €0.45 per kilogram of non-recycled plastic contained in products at the time of their manufacture was introduced. From now on, there will also be a tax on waste sent to landfills or for incineration. The aim is to help Spain reduce the amount of waste generated by 2030 to 15% compared to its 2010 levels.‎ Restaurants are now required to provide customers with tap water for free to reduce waste from plastic water bottles. Spain is the fifth largest producer of disposable bottles in the European Union.

“The new waste law also bans the marketing of single-use plastic products, as well as cosmetic products and detergents containing microplastics, and limits the destruction or disposal of unsold nonperishable products, including textiles, toys or electrical appliances,” said for Deutsche Welle May Lopez, a sustainability expert at the EAE Business School in Madrid

Smart network

Residents of a part of Barcelona throw their rubbish into the bin and it disappears underground. How is that possible? Through pneumatic waste collection boxes. These is a series of cover boxes that are connected to a central vacuum via a network of underground pipes. The special bins are located on the street, in the lobbies or common areas of the buildings. The waste collected in a special vacuum is either transported by truck from “suction points” or the waste installation “pulls” it with a vacuum and processes it.

The benefits of pneumatic waste collection are many. The bins are not overflowing with trash and therefore look better. Thanks to them, the transit of vehicles is reduced and they do not generate bad smells.

This smart grid is not used for recyclable waste such as paper and glass. For them, the best solution is to place them in the special recycling containers. Green is for bottles and jars, yellow is for plastic, and blue is for paper and cardboard. In places there are special containers for old textiles or orange ones for collecting used household oil.



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