• The European Commission warns that Spain is at risk of failing to comply with several indicators in this area
    • A total of 18 EU countries are in the same situation as Spain


    27/07/2023, Brussels. The European Commission (EC) warns that Spain is clearly at risk of failing to meet the European objective of preparing for reuse and recycling of municipal waste. This is one of the conclusions of the early warning report drawn up by the EC and published in June to assess the likelihood that Member States will or will not achieve the targets set in three waste directives, which also analyzes the possible causes and offers solutions.

        European Union (EU) regulations set three targets for the reuse and recycling of waste: to recycle 65% of packaging waste by 2025, to recycle 55% of municipal waste by 2025, and to reduce landfilling of municipal waste to a rate of less than 10% by 2035. The data published by the Commission, which reflect Spain’s performance in 2020, show that the State only passes the first directive, recycling 68.3% of packaging waste. In the other two rates, Spain falls far short of both targets, recycling only 36.4% of municipal waste and dumping 52% of that waste.

        The LIFE ECODIGESTION 2.0 project urges public bodies to comply with the objectives set by the European Commission on waste reuse and recycling. Our project, which focuses on the mixing of organic waste for biogas generation, is an example of achieving environmental and economic benefits through the optimal use of waste. By implementing effective actions, innovative solutions and sharing best practices, we contribute to the environmental and climate objectives of the European Union, actions aligned with the objectives of the LIFE program.


        Obstacles and examples to follow


        According to the report, Spain’s poor performance is due to a low rate of separate collection of municipal waste (20 %), which makes recycling impossible, and the low population covered by highly convenient separate collection systems for bio-waste (which represents 30 % of total municipal waste). In addition, Spain is over-dependent on landfill and mechanical biological treatment plants.


        To move forward, the experts recommend supporting municipalities and packaging reuse systems; developing waste treatment infrastructures, especially for bio-waste; and fully implementing landfill restrictions for all recyclable waste to incentivize municipalities to improve collection and recycling efficiency. Furthermore, the allocation of responsibilities should be clarified and the coordination of regional and local authorities and extended producer responsibility organizations should be strengthened.


        As an example of good practice, the EC cites the application of pay-as-you-throw systems, such as those implemented in Zaldibia (Guipúzcoa), with separate door-to-door collection; Esporles (Mallorca), where a charge is made for specific garbage bags; or Argentona (Barcelona), where residents pay according to the volume of waste they generate. Another example is found in the province of Castellón, where the mancomunidades apply a reduction of the supra-municipal waste collection and treatment fee to waste deposited in civic centers.


        Despite the improvement recorded in recent years, Spain must accelerate to achieve the European goals, according to EC sources, which have stressed that proper waste management can reduce dependence on imports from countries outside the EU, particularly fossil fuels and fertilizers. The aim of this analysis is to push the member states to comply with the objectives, otherwise, they may be sanctioned.


        Disparity between the countries of the consortium


        According to the report, of the 3 countries that are part of LIFE ECODIGESTION 2.0, Belgium meets all the waste targets. The Central European country is close to meeting the municipal waste percentage rate (54.2%, eight tenths of a point short of the target), while it more than meets the targets for packaging recycling (79.7%) and landfilling of municipal waste (1.1%).

        The case of Portugal is more similar to that of Spain, although it does not meet any of the parameters established by the Commission. The country is on track to meet the waste recycling rate, as with a percentage of 59.5%, it is 5 points away from meeting the EU target. However, Portugal only recycles 26.5% (the target is > 55%) of municipal waste and dumps 47.5% of this waste (the target is < 10%).

        About LIFE Ecodigestion 2.0


        LIFE Ecodigestion 2.0 is a pilot demonstration project, funded by the LIFE program and with a budget of more than 970,000 euros, which generates biogas in sewage treatment plant digesters by mixing putrescible organic waste (slurry, poultry, organic fractions, MSW, horeca, etc.), thus transforming sewage sludge into green energy through technology. The initiative led by Global Omnium, (Spain), in collaboration with the Finnova Foundation (Belgium) and Águas do Centro Litoral (Portugal) aims to become the most versatile digestion control tool on the market, achieving environmental and economic benefits through the production of biogas by making optimal use of waste. Thanks to this technology, it favors the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and the use of sewage sludge generated in wastewater treatment processes, thus achieving a positive impact on the environment. This program is easily expandable with other funds such as FEDER, NextGenerationEU or Repower EU.


        About Finnova Foundation


        Finnova is a Spanish-Belgian non-profit foundation based in Brussels and Spain, working on the promotion and development of innovation and entrepreneurship in the EU. Finnova’s experience in leading communication and dissemination activities of European projects is combined with a proven track record in business creation and entrepreneurship support programs, such as accelerators, incubators and events, as well as its commitment to the training and employability of young people.


        About Global Omnium


        Global Omnium is a business group of national and international reference, specialized in the different processes related to the Integral Water Cycle, developing multiple complementary business lines that generate synergies for the optimization of water resources, in addition to waste treatment. It currently provides coverage to 5.5 million people in more than 300 Spanish cities, in addition to having a presence in 3 other continents. It is a project of social commitment, formed by centenary companies that have been contributing to the growth of the cities and municipalities in which they have been operating for more than a century.


        About Águas do Centro Litoral 


        Águas do Centro Litoral is a water and wastewater management company operating in the central coastal region of Portugal. Committed to sustainable water management, they provide high quality services while protecting the environment.