This May, the draft Waste and Contaminated Land Bill will be approved by the Council of Ministers, a law whose main objective is to promote a circular economy, improve waste management in Spain and combat pollution.
This future law includes the European commitments on preparation for reuse and recycling of waste (55% by 2025, 60% by 2030 and 65% by 2035), and will bring forward the obligation to establish the collection of organic matter throughout Spain.
The main goal of the new law? To put an end to the throwaway concept and ensure reuse.
The initiative imposes a limitation on single-use plastic, restrictions on their introduction on the market and certain consumer information obligations. At the same time, a municipal waste charge will be introduced for taxpayers and collections of different waste fractions will be imposed, aimed at reducing waste generation and promoting recycling, as outlined in the EU’s circular economy package. As a result, for the first time, municipalities will be obliged to introduce a specific property tax for municipal waste services.
Another highlight of the new law is the new landfill taxes, one on non-reusable plastic packaging – at 0.45 euros per kilogramme – and another on landfill, co-incineration and incineration, which can range – depending on the type of waste – from 1.5 to 40€ per metric tonne.
At the same time, an “integrated state network of waste disposal facilities and facilities for the recovery of mixed household waste” will be established and their management will be promoted in infrastructures as close as possible to the point of generation. These facts will favour an exponential growth in the recovery of materials, as well as a notable increase in the reuse of waste.
The textile sector will also be affected by the implementation of the preliminary draft law. Companies in the textile industry will be prohibited from destroying the surplus that they do not sell, with no fee required, for the time being, in order to promote more sustainable and less polluting alternatives for textile production. To this end, a series of quantifiable objectives are established:
1. Reduce the weight of waste generated in 2025 by up to 13% compared to waste generated in 2010.
2. Reduce by up to 15% by 2030.
As prevention measures, the reuse of products will be encouraged through the donation and implementation of systems that promote the reuse of textiles.
Therefore, the Draft Bill aims to establish a system of responsibility for both producers and Spanish families that will allow for a considerable reduction in the generation of textile waste, through the promotion of reuse and the separation of waste by type of product.
Regarding the management of WEEE waste, the Royal Decree to improve the management of waste batteries, electric and electronic equipment (WEEE) was approved on 19 January 2021.
The most relevant change introduced was that waste batteries and accumulators containing substances such as lithium or nickel metal hydride will be specifically classified as hazardous waste. By doing so, it is ensured that these materials are managed taking into account these hazardous characteristics.
On the other hand, state collection targets and mechanisms are established that will make a separate collection system for the different categories of WEEE more flexible, allowing for a simpler and more consistent classification with specific treatment requirements for each type.
This Royal Decree, approved last January, is a further step in the process of comprehensive revision of waste regulations, which completes the Draft Law on Waste and Contaminated Soil and other Royal Decrees in various stages of preparation.
In the construction sector, the use of resource-efficient, durable, recoverable, reusable and upgradeable products is a priority, and the introduction of products containing recycled fractions is key. For this to be possible, it is important that there are sustainable production and consumption models, ensuring that the waste generated on construction sites reaches the manufacturers to be reintroduced back into the production systems.
For this reason, the intervention of planners from the conception and design phase of constructions is particularly relevant, as they can reduce the adverse impacts associated with waste generation and management.
Regarding the production, possession and management of waste, a fundamental point is developed which establishes that separate waste collection actions must be prioritised in order to promote its recovery or final transformation into other products.
For this to be possible on construction sites, selective demolition, and separation of the different waste fractions into at least the following materials must be implemented: wood, inert materials, metals, glass, plastic and gypsum.
In short, this is a new regulatory framework for the construction sector that affects the management of waste generated on construction sites, penalising the use of packaging and single-use products, and encouraging the use of recycled materials, the separation of the different flows on site and the implementation of strict documentary control to record the complete traceability of all waste.
Looking towards the future
In the coming years, the regulation will extend its conditions increasing the percentage of obligatory collection and separation. In 2025 it is estimated that at least 77% of the weight of plastic bottles sold will be collected and 90% in 2029. In order to achieve the established goals, the possibility of implementing deposit, return and refund systems for packaging or setting certain targets based on extended producer responsibility is suggested.
The draft bill ensures proper waste management, but also the use of this waste as resources to generate other products or substances, keeping in mind the main goal of favouring the transition from a linear economy (produce – consume – throw away) to a circular economy based on an environmentally friendly system that is committed to prevention, reuse, repair and recycling. A model that makes it possible to extend the useful life of products, give them a second use and recover the valuable materials in this process.
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