SPAIN – Ecoembes, the Spanish entity responsible for managing the recycling of packaging waste in the beverage sector, has been accused of manipulating plastic recycling data.

A recent study indicates that Ecoembes claimed a 71% separate collection rate for small plastic bottles in 2021, while the actual figure is only 36%.

The study, titled “Analysis of the Separate Collection Rate of Plastic Beverage Bottles up to Three Litres in Spain,” was conducted by Eunomia and backed by Zero Waste Europe and the Zero Waste Alliance.

The discrepancy is significant, as it falls short of Spain’s legal target of a 70% collection rate by 2023.

Failure to meet this threshold necessitates the immediate introduction of a deposit return system (DRS) for cans, bottles, and cartons.

This system has proven effective in more than 50 regions globally, achieving up to 90% reuse and recycling rates for beverage containers.

In response to the findings, the groups have called on the Spanish Minister for Ecological Transition and Demographic Challenge to acknowledge the noncompliance.

A Zero Waste Alliance spokesperson stated, “This dismal 36% is a wake-up call for the Spanish government. Just admit we’ve missed the mark! As the Spanish Waste Law mandates, it’s high time to roll out the deposit return system for beverage containers.”

Spain’s manipulation of recycling results is considered indicative of a broader issue at the European level.

Zero Waste Europe plans to present the report’s evidence to the European Commission to halt the spread of misleading data that obstructs the implementation of zero-waste policies.

EU Member States are due to report initial data on the separate collection of beverage plastic bottles for 2022.

Zero Waste Europe founder Joan Marc Simon commented, “If recycling rates were achieved, it would be transformative. However, the industry’s ongoing data manipulation hinders the adoption of zero-waste policies.

“That’s why we’re left with no choice but to bring this evidence to the European Commission, urging Eurostat to reject these fabricated figures that stall progress.”

In a separate report by EAE Business School, 56.7% of waste in Spain is dumped in landfills, while 43.3% is recycled or reused.

Specifically, 13.5% is used to generate energy, 18.3% is recycled, and 11.5% is used for composting and digestion.

However, these percentages do not comply with the European Union’s current hierarchy of priorities, which prioritizes minimizing, reusing, and recycling waste above dumping it in landfills.

Moreover, Spain is below the European Union average, where an average of 52% of waste is recycled or reused, 8.7 percentage points higher than in Spain.

The remaining 48% of solid waste is in landfills, dumped in the environment, or incinerated. Of the 48% of dumped waste, 41% is disposed of in landfills, 7% ends up in land, river, or marine ecosystems, and 1% is incinerated.

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