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Thursday, November 06, 2014 (read 6331 times)

Recycling in Spain

by Tyson

Spain has a recycling system that’s easy to use and available to everybody. All you have to do is look for the convenient color-coded curb-side containers placed all over the place. Whether your destination is a mega-metropolis like Madrid or a pint-sized pueblo pequeño, you should find the recognizable units near your accommodation waiting to receive your recyclables. Indeed, these bold-hued bins brighten Spanish landscapes across the Iberian Peninsula and stand as testimony to the great efforts Spain is making to facilitate sustainable habits. Ecoembes, the non-profit group in charge of the blue (for paper) and yellow (for plastic) bins says that there are over half a million blue and yellow bins out there available for use. Spain also houses 164,503 green bins (for glass); that’s 1 per 284 residents, making this one of the countries with the highest glass recycling bin-to-person ratios. With the amount of recycling containers scattered all over, you have little to no excuse not to recycle in Spain. There are however a few details you may want to keep in mind, which you’ll find explained below.

Recycling bins are color coded according to the material that you can toss into each. They’re usually placed together next to a garbage bin. If you’re used to using a recycling system back home, rules in Spain about what you can and can’t throw in the bins will probably sound familiar (no CDs, appliances, windows, mirrors, etc.)

Here’s a quick break down of what the colors mean:

Blue bins: Paper and cardboard (but not cardboard tetra-brik containers used for drinks and broth, these go in the yellow): These bins might be all blue or grey with a strip of blue and they usually say “solo papel y carton plegado” (only paper and folded cardboard).

Green round bins with a small opening (not the square green bins, those are for garbage): Glass containers (remember no windows, etc.) these often feature a curious drawing of a smiling bottle gathering together a variety of smaller bottles and accompanied by the words “vidrio si, gracias” (glass yes, thank you). Sometimes these round bins may have commissioned artwork covering the entire surface.

Yellow bins: tins cans, tetra-brik cartons, and plastic (bags, bottles, etc.). This seems to be the most confusing of the bins, as the yellow ones receive the most inappropriate material, like CDs etc.

Orange bins: You won’t see these as much but they’re for recycling used cooking oil, reciclado de aceite usado de cocina. Many specifically explain to fill a plastic bottle with the oil and deposit the bottle in the orange bin. Pouring used cooking oil down the drain can cause a series of problems including clogging pipes while recycled oil can be used for things like making soap or even as biodiesel for sustainable transportation.

For more information on where to recycle specific material, check here.

Spain still has a long way to go to catch up its European neighbors in terms of recycling. While Austria and Germany lead the union by recycling 63% and 62% respectively of their municipal waste, Spain still only recycles 33%. According to Ecoembes however, last year 71.9% of all packaging in Spain had gotten recycled, or 1.2 million tons of “light packaging paper and cardboard packaging”. The goal of the European Union is that by 2020 all European countries will recycle at least 50% of household and similar waste. When you’re in Spain, make sure you pitch in to help reach that goal!

Keywords: living in spain,spanish customs,recycled oil,recycling in spain

Posted In: Travel, Spain


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