A post by our newest Junior Consultant, Carmen Salvo, about Spain’s new waste management law and the country’s trend towards a circular economy.

In 2017, Spaniards produced 132 million tons of waste, a 2.3% increase compared to the previous year. Businesses were responsible for nearly 83% of the waste, while 17% was generated in homes. 

Of the waste that was treated, more than half was deposited in landfills, while only 40% was recycled. Although this might not sound like the greenest of economies, it is important to look at its progression: compared to 2016, 13.5% more waste was recycled in 2017, and plastic waste fell 21.5%.

To demonstrate its commitment to continued progress in waste management, the Spanish proposed an ambitious Circular Economy Strategy (Estrategia Española de Economía Circular, EEEC), “España Circular 2030”, in June of last year, designed to align with the European Union’s circular economy strategy. At the same time, the government released a royal decree to improve the traceability and control of residue management, along with a new waste management law. The goal is that together, these circular economy initiatives will be the backbone of the country’s recovery from the COVID-19 crisis.

Expected investment

The new waste management law will require an 86% increase in garbage collection and recycling. This would mean an investment of around 2.5 billion euros in municipal infrastructure and logistics.

The law includes measures which promote a circular economy, such as the implementation of a tax for single-use plastics, a gradual increase in the percentage of municipal waste collection and recycling, and the separate collection of certain waste such as oil or textiles. 

However, Spain will need to make an extra effort to comply with European circular economy goals: Spain currently recycles 35% of municipal waste, compared to the 50% target set for 2020, and the 54% of waste currently deposited in landfills far exceeds the target of 10% set for 2035. 

According to the European Commission’s estimates, Spain will need to invest 2.5 billion euros by 2035 to achieve these targets in areas such as waste collection (1.2 billion euros) and recycling (739 million euros), along with other areas like biowaste treatment, classification, and digitalization.

The cost for consumers of this investment will vary by municipality: currently, yearly waste collection fees range from 39 to 185 euros.

Positive impact on the economy

Experts predict that the new waste management law will have a very positive impact on the economy, as it will boost the creation of new jobs –an estimated 11,140 – as well as improve competition and innovation. Its approval will also entail a reduction in costs (such as those incurred by the health sector or for the recovery of contaminated land) and will help avoid the fines that the European Union has already applied to several European countries that do not comply with the regulations.

Opportunities for companies and investors

The waste management sector is expected to grow in the coming years – and to grow greener. Companies involved in waste transportation, waste classification, recycling, or the digitalization of this sector are sure to find opportunities in the Spanish market. The sector is equally promising for investors looking to buy into the growth which is sure to follow.

If you’d like more information about opportunities or how your company might benefit from this period of growth, contact us