More trash, more cash: who is really behind the plastic crisis in Spain?

March 2021 Report
More trash, more cash: who is really behind the plastic crisis in Spain?

Executive summary

Like many European countries, Spain is struggling with an ever-growing mountain of trash and, within this, the pervasive problem of plastic pollution. Spain is the fourth largest consumer of plastic in Europe as each Spaniard generates over 100kg of plastic waste every year. This addiction to plastic is driving the ever-increasing pollution of the Mediterranean Sea; with Spain the second biggest source of Mediterranean pollution behind Turkey.

Spain is also on the cusp of implementing new targets adopted under the European Union’s revised Waste Package and Single-Use Plastics (SUP) Directives. According to the latter, the Spanish government has to implement several new measures, such as more than 90% separate collection and 30% recycled content in all plastic bottles by 2030. It is also required to increase the ambition of several Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) schemes, which must now cover the full cost of litter clean-ups. Introducing ambitious legislation to implement these targets is not just good for the environment and health – it also makes financial sense. This is a pivotal opportunity for Spain to set the agenda for the next decade, and with it, the country can change course on plastic pollution, moving to higher collection, reuse and recycling rates.

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