2 September 2020

Plastics have a lot of properties. They are

versatile, lightweight, help avoid food waste and also, save energy. In the context of the current health crisis, they have become particularly important thanks to their contribution to safety against bacteria, viruses, and other health hazards. Thanks to them we have masks, gloves, and other protection materials against COVID-19. And not only for people: because of its characteristics, it also offers the greatest protection for the food that they come into contact with, thus preventing the spread of the pandemic.


It is evident that its advantages and benefits are many and varied. However, all this is  useless if we did not internalize and include a key concept: recycling. It is necessary to manage waste correctly, recycling and recovering it. So, when plastics reach the end of their useful life, we can provide new value by transforming them into other resources.

To recycle the lightweight containers from the yellow container, they are separated into metals, PET plastics and cartons

Recycling is the process by which used and discarded materials or waste are transformed into new raw materials to be re-used. Therefore, what we throw away can have a second life and be used again, as long as we recycle. And we can do this thanks to the more than, according to Ecoembes, 659,600 recycling points distributed throughout Spain.

This process is very complex, as it requires several techniques until the perfect result is achieved so that product can be re-used. For example, in the case of plastic, the first step to recycle it is to separate the materials, such as the labels on the products, and also to separate them by colours. Then, it goes through various procedures, such as breaking and shredding of the pieces, washing them to remove impurities and homogenizing them through mechanical processes to achieve similar colours and textures.

In Spain there are almost 660,000 recycling points

It is important to bear in mind that the recycling process begins in our homes, restaurants, and establishments, as that is where we will be installing the different containers. Therefore, the first step is to deposit each waste in the appropriate rubbish bin. In this sense, we must remember that both masks and gloves must be thrown away in the non-recyclable waste bin, never in the yellow bins.

The next step for the recovery of the waste is its collection. This collection is possible because the manufacturers of these packages pay a government fee, so that they are collected and recycled and can be returned as raw material for processing. In Spain there are more than, according to Ecoembes data,  390.500 yellow containers, in which plastic containers, cartons, cans, aluminium trays, white cork, etc. must be deposited.

During last year, each citizen deposited 17.1 kg of plastic containers, cans, and cartons in their corresponding container, which was 9.1% more than in 2018. The town services are responsible for the removal of the waste.

And where is this waste taken to? The next stop is the sorting plant, a particularly important step before the recycling process is carried out, since the different wastes must be separated and classified according to their characteristics. The yellow bin usually presents the greatest difficulty, as there are many different types of containers.

In 2019, each citizen deposited a total of 17.1 kg of packaging in the yellow bins, 9.1% more than the previous year

Over 90 of these recycling plants are distributed throughout Spain. To continue with the example of the recycling of plastic, these plants have to separate them into three different types: PET, HDPE, FILM and mixed plastic; metals, such as steel and aluminium; and cartons.

Once it has been sorted, the waste

arrives at its last stop: the recyclers. The objective here is to convert the waste back into raw material, so that new products can be created again. This closes the cycle of the circular economy and reduces the environmental impact while saving resources. It should now be noted that, in order for a recycler to have access to materials from recycling plants, it must meet a number of technical, economic, and environmental requirements that guarantee the proper treatment of packaging. All must be approved, and an audited award procedure followed.

Pic by Ágora Diario