What is going on with the recycling system in Spain?

Updated: Jan 26, 2021

Ecoembes, known as a Spanish NGO, and which claims to be a responsible organization with environmental pollution through packaging recycling, deceives us. This is the headline that Greenpeace communicates to us in its article.

Let's start by knowing which companies make up Ecoembes: the first thing you should know is that it is made up of a conglomerate of multinational companies that would be among the most polluting for the environment, according to Greenpeace. Among these companies, we can find industry leaders as The Coca-Cola Company, Danone, Nestle, and Bimbo; all well established in the Spanish market.

The companies that bring their packaging –plastic, aluminum, paper– onto the market do so with the printing of a green dot. That green dot or logo means that companies pay a percentage to Ecoembes for the collection and recycling of their packaging.

There are European and Spanish regulations that oblige companies that sell their products in packaging to take responsibility for them and in this case, the Spanish companies decided to do so under this formula instead of the return container, as we can see in this article from the newspaper El Español about the report by Ecoembes.

Ecoembes has been in operation for two decades and today it has not managed to put an end to the scourge of plastic in the way that it was expected or that they were selling.

Greenpeace has relied on a field study when publishing the report entitled "Ecoembes lies".

The report not only values ​​the actions carried out by Ecoembes in recycling, but it is observed that it could be blocking other recycling systems such as the return system, which is much more respectful of the environment.

The reason why this system does not suit them is possibly due to an economic issue. The companies that are part of its conglomerate seem that they would not "be willing" to pay what it costs to recycle the packaging that they put up for sale, as required by law.

Ecoembes has appealed to a law project in the Balearic Islands that wanted the implementation of the packaging return system. Not only within the Balearic Islands but also in the Valencian Community.

This return system known by the acronym SDDR consists of paying a few cents more per container so that the store returns that amount to the customer. This method is already common in countries such as Finland, Norway, and Israel.

This system would reduce the expenses of the municipalities since it is self-financed with the packaging fee. It is a system that according to Greenpeace would be 60% cheaper despite criticism and opposition from Ecoembes since 100% of what is recycled is usable. According to the environmental NGO, this system could generate about 14,000 jobs in Spain alone.

Years ago in Spain, when glass containers outnumbered plastic ones, we also had this return system. It was made with glass: for example milk or beer bottles.

According to some indicators, it is possible that in 2021 the consumption of plastic bottles will exceed half a billion, which would undoubtedly be a great danger to our oceans and coasts.

It seems that this business does not suit Ecoembes because although it is considered a non-profit company, in recent years it has multiplied its income by five.