CONTAINER RETURNS ARE BACK IN SPAIN

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The draft of the Decree on Containers and Container Waste1 that the Spanish government is preparing could include a Deposit, Refund and Return System (DRS), which represents a great victory for one of the historic struggles for the ecologist movements in Spain. The DRS is a waste management model based on leaving a few cents in a deposit when a product is purchased with packaging and that are recovered when the empty packaging is returned. A report by the public company Tragsatec2 highlights that this model could mean the difference between reaching or not the waste collection objectives established in Europe.

Not everyone is satisfied with this initiative. Among the detractors of this possible future measure is Ecoembes, the company that manages packaging waste in Spain, or Ecovidrio, its equivalent dedicated to glass recycling. On the other hand, there would also be resistance from businesses required to have machines to collect containers at their facilities. According to the report, to be able to develop this system properly, between 12,146 and 28,264 container collection machines would be needed in the country’s establishments.

However, there are good prospects for this amendment to the waste law. The amendment was agreed in the Spanish Parliament between PSOE and Unidas Podemos3, and was conditioned on the case that Spain could not meet the objectives of plastic bottles collection in 2023 (70% of bottles collected) and 2027 (85%). The new system would be designed for single-use plastic and aluminum containers used for water, beer, soft drinks and juices with a capacity of less than three liters, and companies will have two years to implement it. The project establishes a minimum of 10 cents as a deposit per container.

The advantages of this new system would be substantial, according to the Tragsatec report: it would prevent 2,193 tons of bottles and cans from ending up in the environment each year (the equivalent of 122 garbage trucks) or 6,752 tons if glass bottles were included. The study warns that with the current yellow container model “none of the goals of net separate collection of plastic beverage bottles would be achieved” and that “The introduction of a DRS would not only increase the amount of material recovered, but also the purity of the collected material and therefore its quality”.

It is indeed good news for the entire population and for the future of the planet. We must, however, continue to press for even more ambitious measures. Survival is about it.

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