Review of 2014 in the recycling sector and prospects for 2015

Balance de 2014 en el sector del reciclado y previsión para 2015

2014 was undoubtedly an important year for the waste recovery and recycling sector in Spain and it also set the scene for much of the development of the sector in the coming years. However, it was also yet another year of the severe economic crisis in which we have been submerged for quite a few years now.

Our sector, as the driving force of the Spanish economy and living proof of the degree to which the concept of the circular economy is inconceivable without taking the recycling sector into account, continued to suffer the consequences of lack of production and consumption in the Spanish economy. It is important to explain that when factories manufacture new products, they generate waste and scrap metal from the process in the form of metal shavings, leftovers and process errors. All these materials are continuously collected by waste managers, who, at the very point of generation, begin to create channels for the return of these materials to the production chain. The problem is that if factories do not manufacture, materials for recycling are not generated by the production processes. Moreover, the process of acquiring a new product often means that an old product is disposed of and enters the recycling chain.

A major element of last year and one that will undoubtedly form part of the 2015 strategy is the fight against encroachment and unfair competition exercised by “illegal operators”, to the detriment of legal, authorised waste managers. This is a scourge we have been suffering for years but one that has in many ways become more severe and alarming since the onset of the economic recession. The fact that an individual in Spain, with no legal, fiscal or environmental authorisation, and without legal investment or legal staff recruitment can erect four posts in a dirt field and buy and sell scrap metal and other materials for recycling on the black market, without paying taxes of any kind, is a very serious matter. “Illegal operators” proliferate on industrial estates throughout Spain and the authorities cannot seem to find a way to stop them.

Fortunately, both the media and the public authorities are increasingly aware of the difference between those who do things properly and those who operate illegally. In any case, we must continue working in 2015 to improve the image of the sector and increase awareness in society of both the sector and the crucial work it carries out in terms of the economy.
Throughout 2014, the FER worked intensively on conveying to the public administration the importance to the sector of legislative development in the form of the Royal Decrees and regulations arising from the Waste and Contaminated Land Act 22/2011 to cover fields such as Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE), End-of-Life Vehicles (ELV) and Lead Batteries.

Alicia García-Franco, CEO, Spanish Federation of Recovery and Recycling (FER)

Article published in: FuturENVIRO March 2015