Each Spaniard recycled more than 13 kilos of domestic plastic during 2020, according to a Cicloplast report. This places the country among the leaders in this matter in Europe, only behind the Czech Republic. In total, more than 600,000 tons of this material were deposited in the yellow containers that are distributed throughout the national orography.

Among the objectives on circular economy set by the European Union (EU), is that the recycling of plastic packaging in the community environment exceeds 50% of the total in 2025. According to current data, in Spain this percentage is already at 51.5%, although the Ministry of Ecological Transition and the Demographic Challenge has set a challenge to reach 60% in 2030.

In addition, the country, according to Cicloplast data, has a problem to face not in recycling but in landfill, which in other European countries is replaced by recovery. Although currently more is recycled than what ends up in the landfill, Spain is below the community average in this apect.

In Spain, the challenge for the future is not so much recycling as replacing landfill with recovery

Normative complexity

Another challenge for the sector is in the impact that the Law on Waste and Contaminated Soils will have (still pending parliamentary processing), in which the Government intends to impose 0.45 euros/kg for domestic plastic and industrial containers, which would have to be added to the 0.98 euros/kg of the green point. According to the industry, this could lead to the loss of around 30,000 jobs in the coming years.

Other news of interest:  The Circular Economy could generate up to 160,000 jobs if recycling is increased

This future law is not the only regulatory challenge for the sector. On July 3, the EU ban on certain single-use plastics came into force, especially affecting products made with oxo-degradable plastic. Many of these producers will have to pay according to an extended producer responsibility (EPR) scheme, to cover the costs of collecting, transporting and treating the waste generated, and to finance future social awareness campaigns.

In addition, as of 2023 the free sale of non-reusable packaging will be prohibited since, from that moment, they will be taxed by an environmental tax. Other items, such as many caps and lids, will be required to be attached to the containers to which they belong.

Other articles of interest: The keys to the new European guidelines on single-use plastics

The future of food plastic

According to an ING study, European companies use more than eight million tonnes of plastic each year to produce food and beverage packaging. According to the Spanish Agency for Food Safety and Nutrition (AESAN) “all plastic materials that are marketed in the EU must comply, in addition to their specific regulations, with the provisions of the Framework Regulation 1935/2004 that includes the general requirements to comply with materials and objects intended to come into contact with food”.

Plastic will continue to be necessary for the proper development and functioning of society, although it is critical to better control its environmental impact. For this reason, in relation to food packaging, more work must be done on the use of recycling solutions that are effective and that generate the least possible contamination.

In this sense, RepetCo offers its own patented system, which is respectful of nature, through multilayer PET/PE food containers of post-consumer origin. Through a unique process, rPET pellets and rPE are generated that can be used again in the food industry with trays and containers made of multilayer PET/PE sheets, in bottles for soft drinks or detergents, and in fibers for the textile and automobile industry.