Beyond containers

Perhaps more than one reader will be surprised by the headline of this article. Wasn’t Ecoembes the non-profit organisation responsible for the management of the blue and yellow containers to promote waste packaging recycling in Spain? Well, yes. But that is not our only mission. Indeed, FuturEnviro readers know us well because of their high degree of specialisation in environmental areas, such as municipal waste management.

Óscar Martín, CEO at Ecoembes

When reviewing 2016, previewing what is already happening in 2017 and looking ahead to the 2020 scenario, we need to explain why Ecoembes is unveiling a vision which goes beyond our main activity, whilst still retaining a direct connection with it. It could not be otherwise, now that we are celebrating 20 years in existence.

Because environmental protection encompasses more, is more complex and even more transcendent than the activity of recycling alone.2016 was a particularly intense year for us. We recycled 1.35 million tonnes of domestic packaging waste, representing 76% of the total, 4% up on 2015. And so the upward trend continued for yet another year, thanks to the commitment of citizens (Spanish citizens deposited an average of 13.2 kilos of packaging in the yellow container and 15.5 kilos in the blue container), public authorities, companies and recyclers. By material type, we recycled 84.8% of metal containers, 82.3% of paper/cardboard packaging and 66.5% of plastic packaging.

This overall packaging recycling rate is above the minimum required by current legislation and is well in line with future scenarios currently being defined in the European Union through the ratification of the new Circular Economy Package. Debate on this new target was an ever-present feature of 2016 and was at the core of all the congresses, seminars and meetings held in the sector.

And no wonder! The package of measures to implement the processes associated with the circular economy, and much of waste management, proposes very high recycling rates for the coming years: by 2030, 75% of waste packaging will have to be recycled. As mentioned previously, Ecoembes has already achieved a recycling rate of 76%, meaning that, at least for this waste fraction, we would already be meeting the targets set out in the Circular Economy Package. Nonetheless, in order to achieve the overall target set for all waste in the Circular Economy Package (65%), we at Ecoembes believe it is necessary to work on waste types that are currently hardly being dealt with at all (for instance, and of fundamental importance, organic matter, which accounts for almost 40% of our municipal waste). Ecoembes, for its part, has set itself the target of recycling 80% of packaging waste by 2020.

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Published in: FuturENVIRO #40 May 2017