Spain denounced for its inaction in waste management


Spanish institutions pinpointed in municipal waste management

On February 11, in a press release sent to the European Commission, sixteen organizations, grouped around the campaign "Changing Markets", denounced Spain's non-compliance with the European objectives set for waste management. Despite a commitment to reuse and recycle at least 50% of municipal waste in 2020,  Spanish authorities are today struggling to reach 35% - a figure which is a long way below target and declining every year!

In view of the Spanish state's inaction, Surfrider Europe has naturally signed this press release alongside several other national-level associations - including Greenpeace, Amigos de la Tierra or Ecologistas en Accion - and territorial authorities, such as the Balearic Islands or Galicia, which are impacted ecologically, socially and economically by the poor waste management.

Beyond pointing out the Spanish institutions' responsibility to the European Commission - which has moreover agreed to examine the demands - this action is obviously a means of pushing the Government to make a U-turn by legislating ambitiously and firmly on the matter.

Inaction leading to a real waste crisis on the Iberian Peninsula

Indeed, although waste management falls under the authority of the Autonomous Communities, the Spanish government must understand that a state-level legislative framework on the subject is essential to reduce pollution within its borders. For this reason, the press release was also sent to the Minister of the Ecological Transition, Teresa Ribera, who, despite repeated recommendations from the EU, has never initiated a concrete waste management policy at national level.

While it is largely responsible for not having achieved the objectives set by the European directives, the government is not the only culprit. The press release also denounces Ecoembes, which holds the monopoly on recycling glass and plastic packaging in Spain, for trying to prevent any attempt to introduce legislative change and delaying as long as possible the introduction of a refundable packaging deposit system. Indeed, the RECICLOS system, currently managed by Ecoembes and supported by several industrial actors (Coca-Cola, Nestlé, P&G...), implies a return of packaging, to the manufacturer, only on a voluntary basis. In addition to not being mandatory, it is limited to a maximum of ten containers per week per consumer, and is therefore very insufficient to meet the European objectives. Only a quarter of glass and plastic packaging is recycled in Spain!

These blocking and distraction strategies, coupled with the Government's lack of will, contribute to the continued dumping and incineration of municipal waste, increasing pollution and contamination of soil, air and water. As a result of its inaction, Spain is the second country, after Turkey, to pollute the Mediterranean the most, seriously affecting ecosystems, biodiversity and human health.    

Firm legislation, the solution for reducing pollution

The press release unveils several solutions by which the Spanish government could reduce the pollution caused by waste within its borders.  Among other things, selective collection of household waste, particularly of organic waste, needs to be improved, and taxes should be established in case of incineration and dumping. These measures must be accompanied by actions taken at the source to further increase manufacturers' responsibility by limiting single-use packaging and establishing an effective deposit system for containers so that the cost of plastic pollution is borne by the industry and not by Spanish taxpayers, who each year pay 744 million euros for the treatment of this abandoned waste.

In order for these proposals to be truly effective, we demand that they be included in the new Law on waste. More participative and ambitious, it must guarantee Spain's compliance with European objectives for reuse and recycling, in the same way as other EU members.

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