Current affairs

Wednesday, 12 de September, 2018

EAE Business School (www.eae.es) has published a report entitled “Waste Management and the Circular Economy” in which there is an analysis of the current situation of solid waste in different areas, as well as a reflection on different models of waste management and the concept of the circular economy. The research considers the global situation, as well as focusing on the European Union, Spain and the Autonomous Communities.

EAE’s report concludes that, in Spain, 56.7% of waste is dumped in landfills, while 43.3% is recycled or reused. Specifically, 13.5% is used to generate energy, 18.3% is recycled and 11.5% is used for composting and digestion. However, these percentages do not comply with the current hierarchy of priorities established by the European Union, which prioritizes the minimization, reuse and recycling of waste above dumping in landfills, as the report finds.

Moreover, Spain is below the average of the European Union, with an average of 52% being recycled or reused, 8.7% points higher than in Spain. The remaining 48% of solid waste end up in landfills (in a technically inappropriate way), dumped in the environment or incinerated. Of the 48% of dumped waste, 41% is disposed of in landfills, 7% ends up in land, river or marine ecosystems and 1% is incinerated.

WASTE BY AUTONOMOUS COMMUNITIES

In terms of the Autonomous Communities, the regions that generate the most waste per inhabitant are the Balearic Islands (800.6 kg), Canary Islands (594.1 kg) and Cantabria (532.6 kg). At the other end of the spectrum, the regions that generate least waste are La Rioja (405.7 kg) and the Community of Madrid (363.8 kg).

Analysing the data for waste generation per capita in 2015 in comparison to the statistics for 2013, the two years for which data is available, most of the communities increase the amount of waste generated per inhabitant, such as Extremadura, the region that has seen the biggest rise, which generated 409.4 kg per inhabitant in 2013, a figure that had risen by 11.8% by 2015. The communities that have decreased their waste generation include the Basque Country, Andalusia, Catalonia, La Rioja and the Community of Madrid, which recorded reductions of 17.1%, 7.2%, 1.5%, 1%, 0.5%, respectively.

PLASTIC WASTE AND ELECTRICAL AND ELECTRONIC APPLIANCES

Moreover, the global generation of solid urban waste continues to increase year after year. In 2010, a total of around 1.3 billion tonnes was generated each year. This figure is expected to reach around 2.2 billion tonnes by the year 2025. This is equivalent to an increase in the rate of waste generation per capita of 1.2 to 1.42 kg per person per day.

The world production of plastic is increasing significantly due to its applications in sectors such as packaging, construction, transport, healthcare and electronics. It is estimated that plastic production is set to double over the next 20 years and increase almost four-fold by 2050.

However, of all the plastic waste generated, only 14% is collected for recycling, where 4% is lost in the process, 8% is used for cascade recycling (to produce lower value plastic applications, and 2% is used to produce new plastic packaging.

If the principles of the circular economy were applied, the opportunities for reusing identified and quantified plastic packaging represent at least 20% of the current market, savings of around 6 million tonnes of materials could be made, equivalent to an economic opportunity of 9 billion dollars.

The global generation of waste consisting of electrical and electronic devices is set to reach 52.2 million metric tonnes (Mt) by 2021, or 6.8 kg per inhabitant. These figures have risen due to new economic models that promote greater consumption and the planned obsolescence of products. A total of 20% or electronic waste, equivalent to 8.9 Mt, were collected and recycled formally through an official return system in compliance with the legal requirements.

However, it is estimated that 4% (1.7 Mt) of electronic and electric waste in the richest countries ends up in residual waste bins, with the ultimate destination of 76% (34.1 Mt) of electronic waste still unknown. The report concludes that “electronic waste is probably moved across borders (primarily from developed to developing countries), or recycled under inferior conditions”.

CONCLUSIONS

In Spain, 56.7% of waste is dumped in landfills, while 43.3% is recycled or reused.

Spain is below the average of the European Union, with an average of 52% being recycled or reused, 8.7% points higher than in Spain.

If the principles of the circular economy were applied, the opportunities for reusing identified and quantified plastic packaging represent at least 20% of the current market.

It is estimated that plastic production is set to double over the next 20 years and increase almost four-fold by 2050.

Of all the plastic waste generated in the world, only 14% is collected for recycling.

The global generation of waste consisting of electrical and electronic devices is set to reach 52.2 million metric tonnes (Mt) by 2021, or 6.8 kg per inhabitant.