Will Spain introduce the deposit system on plastic bottles?

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Spain must determine before October 2024 whether the country has achieved the European target of 70% recycling for plastic bottles. If this does not work, Spain will have to switch to the deposit system. This is known as the SDDR system: Sistema de Depósito, Devolución y Retorno.

In Spain, only the autonomous region of the Basque Country has introduced a deposit system in major supermarkets. Future European regulations stipulate that by 2030, no packaging that is not recyclable may be introduced onto the European market. In addition, general targets for packaging reduction are included: 5% in 2030, 10% in 2035 and 15% in 2040.

Current system versus the SDDR method

The current system consists of consumers depositing their plastic waste in the yellow containers. However, this system makes it difficult to obtain accurate recycling figures. It does not separate different types of packaging, which poses a challenge for effective recycling processes. The SDDR system, which has already been successfully implemented in many European countries, works on the basis of a deposit. Consumers pay a small amount when purchasing a bottle and receive it back when they return the empty deposit bottle.

European standards

On one hand, Spain must therefore meet European requirements. On the other hand, the Spanish Law on Waste and Contaminated Soil from April 2022 also sets clear goals for the separate collection of these waste flows. If Spain does not reach 70% by 2023, the law requires the country to implement a nationwide SDDR system within two years to meet 2025 and 2029 recycling targets. These amount to 77% and 90% respectively.

Waiting for outcome

According to sources within the Ministry for Ecological Transition and quoted in El País, the 2023 data is still being collected and verified. The results of this are crucial to determine whether a switch to the SDDR system is necessary. It would be a change that would also bring significant economic investment. Organisations such as Ecoembes, responsible for the yellow containers, have been opposing such a radical change to the collection system for years. On the other hand, various environmental groups and nature conservation organisations have been advocating for a deposit system in Spain for years.

Banned types of plastic from 2030

Some types of single-use plastic packaging will be banned from January 1, 2030. For example, packaging for fresh, unprocessed fruit and vegetables. For food and drinks served in cafés and restaurants, or for individual portions (e.g. used for spices, sauces, cream, sugar). Small containers with personal hygiene products and very light plastic bags (less than 15 microns) are also no longer allowed.

In addition, from 2025, each country will set a limit on the use of lightweight plastic bags: the equivalent of 40 bags per year per inhabitant. Also, so-called eternal chemicals (perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl compounds, known by the abbreviation PFAS) may no longer be processed above certain threshold values in packaging that comes into contact with food.

Also read: Spaniards have little confidence in correct waste processing

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