Cotec report shows the stagnation of the transition to a circular economy in Spain

The Fundación Cotec para la Innovación today presented the third edition of the Cotec Report on the Circular Economy at CaixaForum Barcelona. The report has been published every two years since 2017. It provides data on the current situation of the circular economy at national level compared to Europe and offers detailed analysis of the policies implemented at different administrative levels. In Spain, recovered material accounts for just 10% of total material requirements, and recycling levels remain well below those of the European Union.

The Fundación Cotec para la Innovación today presented the third edition of its biennial report on the circular economy, in which it analyses the evolution and current situation of this model of production and consumption at national level compared to Europe. The data provided in the report point to stagnation in the transition to a circular economy over the last five years. This is despite the implementation of different policies and strategies at different administrative levels and by businesses, as well as increased awareness of the circular economy concept among citizens.

The presentation of the report could be followed online from CaixaForum Barcelona. The event was attended by Director of Strategy and Sustainability Monitoring at CaixaBank, Severiano Solana; Executive Director of Acció, the Catalan Government Agency for Business Competitiveness, Joan Romero; the Cotec 100 expert on responsible production and consumption (SDG12), Cliona Howie; and President of Cotec, Cristina Garmendia. The data was presented by the authors of the report: the coordinator of the UNESCO Chair in Sustainability at the Polytechnic University of Catalonia (UPC), Jordi Morató, and the President of the Association for Sustainability and the Progress of Societies (ASYPS), Luis Jiménez.

In her speech, Cristina Garmendia praised the work of companies that contribute to promoting circular business models in multiple sectors and stressed that “there is already a model that thousands of experienced professionals are building every day in different facilities, many of them little known and sometimes even hidden from the public eye”. A number of the successful cases promoted by Fundación Cotec member organisations were highlighted during the presentation of the report. These include Madrid City Council, SUEZ, ArcelorMittal, Ferrovial, Naturgy, Solutex, Mapfre, Econward, Neolectra and Exxita Be Circular.


The report provides figures indicating that Spain is still far from being circular. It points out that recovered material accounted for only 10% of total material requirements in 2019. This figure is close to the EU-27 average for the circular use of materials (11.8%), but far lower than that of countries like the Netherlands (30%) or France (20%). Finland is amongst the countries with the lowest circular use of materials (6.3%).

Spain has a recycling rate of 35%, far below the 50% target set by the European Commission for 2020. Spain’s recycling rate is lower than the EU-27 average (48%) and far from the new EU 2025 target, whereby EU countries must recycle 55% of the municipal waste they produce.

With regard to waste treatment, 54% of waste in Spain was sent to landfill in 2019, a far cry from the EU target of no more than 10% by 2035. In the EU as a whole, landfill rates fell by 50% between 2000 and 2019, but incineration rates rose from 16% to 27%.

As the Cotec report indicates, the current circular economy situation in Spain requires an urgent transformation in favour of measures focusing particularly on reparability and durability, but also on product recycling, food waste prevention, advances in eco-design, eco-innovation and greater public awareness.

The report highlights progress in the development of circular economy plans, programmes and regulations at all levels of public administration, but warns that it is still premature to determine their impact because they are at an early stage and progress to date has been partial.