World Recycling Day: this is how the greenest countries recycle

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On May 17, World Recycling Day is celebrated, which has the mission of raise awareness about the importance of reusing the products we consume. The goal of recycling is to create a new product using the materials of another that has already been used.

What advantage does this process have? Very simple, the new products that are created are less polluting and less energy is needed for their production. The result is that we save energy, pollute less and help prevent climate change.

Every year we recycle more at home

The celebration of World Recycling Day was an initiative of a group of environmentalists from Texas in 1994. In these 25 years, in Spain we have gone from recycling 5% of the packaging used at home to 78.8%, according to Ecoembes, through a system that involves separating waste from home so that it is easier to reuse it later.

Last year, each Spanish recycled more than 15.7 kg of plastic containers and 18.1 kg of glass, 12% more than in 2017, a percentage that marks the greater increase since packaging recycling was implemented, according to the same data from Ecoembes.


The percentage of packaging that Spaniards have recycled in 2018.

But the good news doesn’t stop there. If we analyze the absolute figures, we see that with 1,453,123 tons of recycled household packaging, the emission of 1.6 million tons of CO2 into the atmosphere was avoided, energy consumption was reduced by 6.21 million megawatts and 20 were saved. , 3 million m3 of water and 1.45 million tons of raw materials.

These data translate into our reaching a container collection rate of 78.8%. Nevertheless, recycling of household packaging only represents 8% from the 22 million tons of urban waste that we generate. If we consider all waste, we only recycle 33.5%, according to Eurostat data, falling far short of the European Union target, set at 65% for 2035.

This is how the greenest countries recycle

Spain ranks sixth in the European packaging recycling ranking, which means that some countries are doing much better than us. To learn from them, we have selected the best recycling practices from European countries. So take good note:

Belgium sells specific bags for each waste

Belgium is a very strict country when it comes to waste, to the point that has “official” bags of different colors for each type of garbage: blue for plastics and cans, yellow for paper and cardboard, green for organic vegetable waste such as fruit and vegetables and brown for the rest. These bags small ones cost € 1 and € 2 the big ones and they are taken out at night to the street. Eye! Every day a type of garbage is collected and if the wrong type is removed or waste is mixed, you can be fined.

Switzerland and Ireland separate the glass by colors

In Switzerland and Ireland they have different glass containers according to the color of the bottle. The separation of the glass by color is justified because green or brown glasses cannot become transparent again if they are recycled. In addition, in Switzerland each citizen has to mark their bags with their label to check that they recycle well. The Irish can choose to buy specific bags or put stickers on the bags with the contents.

Germany and Finland pay you if you recycle well

In both countries the system known as SDDR what is a system of deposit, return and return to recycle packaging of drinks. Its operation is very simple: when buying the bottles or cans, citizens pay a small amount that they recover when they deposit the container in the machines installed in supermarkets. They must be returned in good condition, so forget about crushing the cans so they take up less. In Spain, the government has announced that it is going to carry out a study to analyze the feasibility of implementing this system.

United Kingdom, each city council sets its rules

Each city council in the United Kingdom establishes the color of the garbage cans according to the type of waste and the corresponding collection days for each one, because garbage is not collected daily. Cardiff is the city that has achieved the best results with door-to-door garbage collection including glass, packaging and paper.

Sweden turns garbage into energy

The Swedish model starts from an exhaustive separation of waste in colored bags at home, to be incinerated later in recycling stations. Through the WTE (waste to energy) program Some 250,000 households have electricity generated by garbage and 20% have heating, as 96% of garbage is recycled or burned in incineration plants.

And in Spain it is recycled more in …
But let’s go back to our country. What are the cities in Spain that recycle the most and best? The answer depends on the material we are considering.

For example, if we focus on glass recycling, the first position in the ranking corresponds to San Sebastián with a ratio of 38.4 kg per inhabitant, followed by Pamplona with 29 kg, Barcelona 22.7 kg, Bilbao 22.6 kg and Palma de Mallorca 22.5 kg, according to data from Ecovidrio.

And with regard to the community that most uses the yellow container to recycle packaging, Ecoembes places the community of Madrid in first position with 21.8 kg per inhabitant, followed by Navarra with 21.3 kg and the Balearic Islands with 21 kg. But when it comes to paper and cardboard, things change. In first place is Aragon with 32.1 kg per inhabitant, the Balearic Islands rises to second position with 34 kg and behind is the Basque Country with 32.1 kg.

Now that you know how it is recycled in other countries, do you dare to do it?

A few more facts to convince you: with 40 plastic bottles you can make a fleece and with 8 cereal boxes a book, without having to cut down a tree. It’s worth it right?

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