MADRID – The European Commission has reprimanded Spain for still not banning environmentally unfriendly disposable items such as straws and plastic cutlery. In doing so, the country is violating the European directive from 2019 for waste management.
The EU has been monitoring Spain’s waste management for years because the Spanish government does not comply with European regulations. On July 3 last year, all member states banned the sale of disposable plastic items. However, since then, Spain has again failed to comply with Community environmental protection legislation. Consequently, this has prompted the EU to launch an investigation.
A new waste law is currently being discussed in the Senate. This includes two types of tax to encourage the recycling of plastic and to reduce the use of single-use plastic. Because the various parties were unable to reach an agreement, the new law will probably not be approved until April. The new law will tax landfill and waste incineration across Spain to encourage waste recycling. Now only 10 of the 17 autonomous regions do that. Uniform regulations should prevent the movement of waste between the different regions in order to avoid tax.
Ignore European recycling policy
This is not the first time that the European Commission has criticized Spain for its negligent waste policy. In July last year, the Commission already issued an ultimatum to Spain. This was to comply with a 2018 directive on European recycling targets for the year 2035. If Spain continues to ignore this four-year-old directive, the European Commission will take the country to the Court of Justice of the European Union days.
Reducing plastic litter
The current investigation concerns non-compliance with Directive 2019/904 of the European Parliament and of the Council on the reduction of the effects of certain plastics on the environment. Plastic often contains toxic substances and is not broken down in nature, so pieces of plastic end up in the food chain. Specifically, this concerns cotton swabs, plastic cutlery and plates, straws, stirrers, sticks for attachment to balloons, food and drink packaging made of expanded polystyrene for foodstuffs intended for immediate consumption, glass or metal beverage containers with plastic caps and lids.
Spain is not the only country not yet complying with this ban on single-use plastics: the EU is investigating 14 more countries for ignoring the aforementioned directive. Within Europe, however, only Poland, Slovenia, Malta, Luxembourg and Cyprus have not yet taken any initiative. Belgium, Finland, Ireland and Portugal have already taken steps, but according to the committee these are still insufficient. Only Germany, Sweden, France, Denmark, Croatia and Hungary have done their homework well.
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