The recycling of domestic packaging grew by 3.6% in 2022, exceeding 1.6 million tons

In 2022, in Spain, 1,627,313 tons of household containers made of plastic, metal, briks, and paper and cardboard were sent to recycling facilities to be recycled and give them a new life, 3.

Oliver Thansan
Oliver Thansan
22 May 2023 Monday 14:40
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The recycling of domestic packaging grew by 3.6% in 2022, exceeding 1.6 million tons

In 2022, in Spain, 1,627,313 tons of household containers made of plastic, metal, briks, and paper and cardboard were sent to recycling facilities to be recycled and give them a new life, 3.6% more than the previous year, according to the balance released by Ecoembes in the framework of the celebration of World Recycling Day (May 17).

"The contribution to the circular economy through the recycling of packaging continues to take hold in Spanish society, ensuring that more and more packaging can become a new raw material to create, from them, other products such as textiles, street furniture, pipes and new packaging", highlights Ecoembes.

By type of material, of the 1,627,313 tons recycled, 708,596 tons were plastic containers (4.7% more than in 2021); 666,344 corresponded to paper and cardboard (4.5%); 243,360 were metal containers (a drop of 1.5%); and 9,012 tons were wooden containers (6.8%).

Of the total tons of recycled packaging, 1,205,378 came from the packaging that citizens separated into the yellow and blue containers on the street and in the colored bins installed in spaces with a large influx of people, such as theme parks, airports, stadiums soccer field, offices and bars and restaurants.

The remaining quantity was recovered from the plants of the rest fraction, where all kinds of unseparated waste arrive. "Citizen involvement is essential for the recycling process. The separation that citizens make in their homes and other spaces is the first step in a long industrial process that ends in a recycling facility, which is what converts waste into new raw material", recalls Ecoembes.

In 2022, each citizen separated 27.1 kilos of plastic containers, cans, briks, and paper and cardboard to make recycling possible. These data are in line with the objectives set by the new national and environmental legislation to improve the quantity and quality of the separation that citizens carry out. For this reason, and despite the fact that this habit of separating to recycle is well established, the goal is that every year citizens do it more and in a better way.

In order to continue improving the results in selective collection and recycling of household packaging, "it is essential that citizens have infrastructures and services that facilitate this task, such as the 388,747 yellow containers (5,239 more containers than in 2021) and the 243,399 blue ( 3,102 more) that are on the street, as well as the more than 56,400 colored litter bins available in other spaces", indicates Ecoembes, listing some of the equipment in service in Spain.

"The equipment and infrastructures, together with the putting into circulation of the trucks that collect the yellow and blue containers, until the payment of the operators, the selection process carried out in the 97 plants distributed throughout the country, the transfer of waste and the awareness and awareness campaigns had a cost for Ecoembes in 2022 of 705 million euros, specifies this managing entity.

“Recycling is a daily action among Spanish families, it is integrated into their day to day, and that is a success. But we must aspire to more: we have to continue making it easy for citizens, so that they continue to collaborate with the voluntary separation of their waste at home and when they are at work, on the street or at a sporting event, so that they do so every time with fewer errors and to get those who do not recycle to start doing so", explains Rosa Trigo, CEO of Ecoembes.

"It is not just about meeting the ambitious objectives set by the legislation, which with more than 1.6 million tons recycled in 2022 we already respond to, but also about fulfilling our commitment to the environment. We will continue working to that end , as we have been doing for 25 years, raising awareness and bringing recycling closer to citizens and offering all our know-how so that the recycling cycle is as efficient as possible”, says Rosa Trigo.

Thanks to the recycling of more than 1.6 million tons of packaging, last year the consumption of 21.46 million cubic meters of water and 6.72 million MWh of energy were saved, in addition to avoiding the emission of 1.79 million tons of CO₂ into the atmosphere.

2023 marks the 25th anniversary of the entry into force of the first law that promoted the recycling of packaging in Spain. Since then, both the citizen commitment to the habit of recycling, as well as the infrastructures and the involvement of companies have made great strides, getting more and more containers to be recycled. In fact, in 1998 the tons of recycled packaging were 43,969, a figure that is very far from the 1,627,313 tons reached in 2022, a year in which it is also worth noting that 20% of the plastic household packaging placed on the market incorporated material recycling, thus promoting its circularity, highlights Ecoembes.

"Throughout this quarter of a century, a great effort has been made to improve infrastructure, such as the number of containers -currently there is one container every 100 meters approximately- or the selection plants -there are already 71 automated plants in the country-, as well as to raise awareness and teach the population about what to deposit in each container and the importance that the simple gesture of recycling has for the environment, with 4 out of 5 citizens already stating that they have, on average, 3 buckets to separate their containers, allocating one of them to those of the yellow container", details that managing entity.

In addition to the progress achieved, the objective is to continue improving the system and increase citizen collaboration with the separation of containers, in line with the new goals set by national and European legislation.

The path towards a circular economy also includes progress in the recycling of other types of waste that, up to now, have not had a mandatory separate collection, such as textiles or organic matter. In fact, the objectives set in terms of recycling for the coming years affect the increase in the recycling of all types of waste, whether domestic or not.

Likewise, it is necessary to increasingly prioritize reduction and responsible consumption and reuse as prior alternatives to recycling, recalls this managing entity.

The Ecoembes balance data released now are those that are communicated annually to the Ministry of Ecological Transition (see 2021 balance) and with which the data on total recycled packaging -industrial, commercial and domestic- that Spain reports to the European Union (see Eurostat 2021).

More information about packaging recycling data,

More information about the recycling process, audits and operation of Ecoembes