January 19, 2021

Waste law: a new blow to disposable plastics

The new rule, which will be approved this year, drastically cuts disposable utensils, but still does not implement the container return system

After the timid step in the fight against plastic that the country took in 2018 with the collection of bags at any point of sale, 2021 comes to give a new challenge to polymers through the Law on Waste and Contaminated Soils, promoted by the Ministry of Ecological Transition.

The draft bill is now in full process after passing through the Council of Ministers and is expected to be approved at the beginning of this year. With this new rule, the 2011 Waste Law is repealed and transposes two community directives two European directives, one on waste management and another on the reduction of plastics.

Through this new legal text, Spain seeks to meet the objectives set in Europe to reduce the levels of pollution in its member states and the impact of its waste on the environment. Although it is a norm that sets margins for adaptation of years and even decades, it will begin to activate the first changes this year.

A crab trapped in a plastic cup, in the Philippine Sea. Photo: Greenpeace

As of July 3, the marketing of a series of disposable plastic products will be prohibited. These are: sanitary cotton buds, cutlery, plates, straws, drink stirrers, sticks intended to hold balloons and expanded polystyrene containers (for example, the white cork trays used for meat, fish or even vegetables ).

In addition, products made with oxodegradable plastic will be rejected, that is, one that tends to decompose into small particles that are imperceptible to humans, but harmful to health and the environment. In the same way, cosmetic products and detergents with microplastics in their composition “intentionally added” will be banned, according to the draft.

This will be the first action of the Waste Law this year and it precedes a series of initiatives that will be developed in subsequent years.

As of January 1, 2023, the free distribution of glasses intended for take-away drinks, their lids and stoppers, as well as containers, with or without a lid, intended for “immediate consumption, on-site or for take away ”and does not need“ further preparation, such as cooking, boiling or heating ”.

A hygienic stick, with a seahorse. Photo: nationalgeographic

For this reason, the Ministry of Ecological Transition has included the creation of a special tax for non-reusable plastic packaging, of an indirect nature and that will tax 0.45 euros for each kilo of plastic.

This law sets the objective of reducing these plastics by 50% in 2026 (compared to 2022) and in 2030, 70%, also compared to 2022.

Limits to bottled water

In the line of reducing disposable plastic to its minimum expression, the new Waste Law contemplates obligations for public administrations, hotels and restaurants with respect to the preference of non-bottled water to the detriment of the bottled up.

In the first case, public agencies must have drinking water sources that “guarantee hygiene and food safety” and must supply water in reusable containers, of course, “without prejudice to the fact that health and educational centers allow commercialization in single-use containers ”.

In the case of hospitality guild, must offer the “possibility of consuming non-bottled water for free and complementary to the offer of the same establishment as long as the city council or the water supply company guarantees that it is suitable for human consumption ”.

As of this year, the destruction of non-perishable surplus products such as textiles, toys, electrical appliances will also be prohibited, as long as they must not be destroyed in accordance with other regulations.

Finally, another of the novelties included in this legal text is the establishment of calendars to reduce the weight of waste generated. Thus in 2025, the production of waste should be reduced by 13% and in 2030 by 15% compared to 2010.

Beach cluttered with plastics. Photo: Greenpeace

A “lax” law: no return of containers

For Greenpeace, the new Law on Waste and Contaminated Soils, after consulting its preliminary draft, is a “not very ambitious and lax” text, because it limits itself to transposing European directives and does not go further into the eradication of disposable containers.

“He speaks with little ambition of the reduction [de residuos]. It does not cover any obligation or mandatory rates of the second of the “R”, which is key, reuse. This is a problem, if we don’t have reuse rates, there is little we will be able to do ”, explains Julio Barea, Greenpeace’s campaign director for Verde y Azul.

Barea also criticizes the fact that the law does not end sharply with disposable containers, through container return systems or a stronger plastic tax. “We need a return and return of packaging, not only to recycle, but to be able to re-use massively “adds the Greenpeace spokesperson. “There can be no disposable containers. You can’t get there with the law ”.

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