Chip trash cans to improve composting

A person takes his organic garbage onto the street, walks to the brown container and takes out a citizen card with which he opens the electronic lock and deposits his remains. This type of container with a chip is increasingly common in Spanish municipalities and, although they are more expensive to install, many councils have been betting on them for years with the aim of increasing organic waste collection rates.

In the Madrid municipality of Getafe, the company LYMA began installing them in 2021 and since then they have improved in recycling this fraction: «In Madrid it is estimated that only 20% of what is put in the brown bucket is really what should be throw yourself there. However, in Getafe since we have these cubes, Up to 90% of the waste can be used for compost and there are only 10% inappropriate. We believe that people have been trained (requirement to obtain the card) and whoever uses it is aware and knows exactly what to put here,” say his spokesperson. In 2023 alone they collected 734 tons of organic.

Other cities such as Gijón, Almería or Vitoria already have this type of cube. In Vigo they are installing them not without some anger from the neighbors and in the Commonwealth of the Pamplona Region there has been controversy with the use of the data. The electronic closure allows the recording of the date and time of opening and closing, which in theory facilitates traceability and waste management – ​​and could serve to penalize or reward neighbors. After a complaint, the Commonwealth has stopped collecting data according to local media.

Organic is one of the fractions that city councils are influencing the most, because it is one of the fractions that is recycled the least today. «In 2022, 31.5% of the biowaste generated was managed by composting. This tells us that composting in Spain is developing at an increasing rate and is expected to increase in the coming years, since the objective is thatl 50% of biowaste will be managed by composting in 2030», according to data from the Spanish Federation of Municipalities and Provinces (Femp). Furthermore, if we imagine a bag of garbage not separated from our home, 40% by weight is represented by organic waste (potato skins, garlic, fruit bones or fish scrapings, bread…).

The situation in Spain with garbage is not one of the best in Europe. Almost 46% of the waste we generate ends up in landfills and the recycling rate is 42.2%, according to the latest data published by the Ministry of Ecological Transition. However, Law 7/2022 on waste and contaminated soils for a circular economy establishes a reuse objective and recycling 55% of municipal waste by 2025 and 60% in 2030. In addition, the EU dictates that by 2035 only a maximum of 10% should reach landfills.

Beyond the legislations, with the 2022 law, in addition, The government has set a landfill tax of 30 euros per ton in all CCAA. «It is often said that Spain is one of the countries that recycles the least, but this is not totally true because it depends on the waste we are talking about. For example, we get good marks in vehicle recycling, waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE), etc. In reality, it is only in the management of mixed domestic waste where we get a bad grade and there is a part of citizens' responsibility in this; “They must separate correctly,” says Alicia García-Franco, general director of the Spanish Federation of Recovery and Recycling (FER). In packaging recycling we continue to improve separation and recycling, with a rate that already exceeds the community objective of 65% for 2025. And according to Ecovidrio, records continue to be broken. In 2022, 939,094 tons of glass were recycled.

A Tsunami of Scraps

The same law talks about developing the regime of extended producer responsibility for the commercial and industrial packaging sector, Therefore, as of January 1, 2025, any manufacturer that puts its products on the market with packaging will be obliged to adhere to some Collective System of Extended Producer Responsibility (SCRAP), that is, they will have to pay to manage their packaging. Industrial and commercial ones bring together a multitude of types of packaging and waste, from drums to jugs or pallets, cardboard boxes, etc. For each one, at least a dozen new Scraps are being configured (Sigaus has created Genci, Ecoembes has one for commercial packaging, Procircular has emerged and several more have been created by entities that manage WEEE such as Ecolec packaging…).

Two other developments coming from Europe have to do with two waste fractions. The first, textiles. Before January 1, 2025, all member countries must collect textiles separately and, according to EU data, each European consumes on average almost 26 kg of clothing and sheds 11 kilos per year. 87% is incinerated or ends up in landfills and only 1% is recycled into new clothes. In addition, “we must add the upholstery of the sofas, cushions, curtains, bedding, etc.,” explains Alicia García from FER. The second is Construction and Demolition Waste. In Spain according to data from the Spanish Waste Recycling Association RCD 19% of this waste ends up in landfills and 20% of production can be considered uncontrolled.

Improve plastic ratio

Despite the recycling data, Óscar Hernández, general director of the National Association of Plastic Recyclers (Anarpla) points out that there is still a lot of room for improvement because “we still have a lot of landfilling. Spain It is the second country by plastic recycling capacity and now these new Scraps are coming into operation for commercial and industrial packaging, along with fishing gear, agricultural plastics or textiles that contain a lot of plastic fiber. Now, the demand for recycled plastic depends on the price of virgin plastic. If it is low and there is no obligation to have recycled plastic, there is no interest in using it. In 2021, the supply of virgin plastic decreased and the recycled plastic rates increased up to 25%. Starting in 2025, usage obligations begin to come in; “25% PET recycling will be requested for bottles, for example, but its use can also be promoted through green public purchases.”

Points to reuse or recycle by car

In Vitoria it has the Reutilizagune service, “where citizens hand over various materials that they no longer use in order to be able to give them reuse or a second life, before proceeding to destroy them. People come to that location and deposit their object. From there, anyone interested can get it, in exchange for a symbolic price,” they say from the council.

For its part, Ecovidrio has carried out a pilot in Boadilla to improve the glass collection rate. It has installed containers in the Montepríncipe urbanization that can be accessed from the car and without having to get out of it. Selective collection in this area has grown by +50% compared to previous months.