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By Irene Casado Sánchez
In 2012, under the name What a Waste: A Global Review of Solid Waste Management, the World Bank warned about the unprecedented increase in waste.
“About 3,000 million residents generate 1.2 kilos of garbage per person per day; in 2025, this will increase to 4.3 billion residents who will generate 1.42 kilos of daily waste ”.
They warn that the amount of MSW will go from 1.3 million tons per year to 2.2 million in just thirteen years.
In Spain only 27% of municipal waste is recycled or undergoes a composting process. 63% of MSW end up in landfills without receiving any type of treatment. According to the latest report by Eurostat, the statistical office of the European Union (EU), an average of about 464 kilos of garbage per person was generated in 2012. Only 17% of this waste was recycled, compared to 63% that ended up in landfills.
The lack of effective policies together with the scarce education and awareness of society make up a bleak outlook for waste management. In Spain, there are "63 landfills with an infringement procedure in the European Commission, the recycling plants have ridiculous recovery rates and there is little experience of selective collection of municipal waste," they point out from the NGO Ecologistas en Acción. Together with Romania, Bulgaria, Poland and Cyprus, Spain occupies one of the last positions in the EU when it comes to urban waste management.
The European Commission (EC), "in order to eliminate the existing relationship between economic growth and waste production", established in 2008 a directive "to control the entire waste cycle" and revalue recycling. According to this legal framework, "any producer or holder of waste must carry out its treatment" and "Member States may cooperate to establish a network of disposal facilities" for urban waste. In this context, the EU requires that 70% of urban waste and 80% of packaging be recycled by 2030. A utopia in the current scenario.
The budget for the treatment of MSW has increased. It has invested in management infrastructures. "But these investments have not been accompanied by tangible results," they explain from Ecologistas en Acción. It is no longer about managing waste, but about reducing waste resulting from a “throwaway” culture.
The system of colored containers - gray, yellow, green and blue - implemented in many cities is not valid, experts explain. Added to the failure of this model is "the incompetence of many managers and the renouncement of many municipalities to bear the management costs and translate them into real prices." Against this background, "we need a transition towards an efficient society in the use of resources," say ecologists. Society must become aware of the consequences of irresponsible consumption. If each citizen separates the garbage, the recycling system optimizes its results: less waste and more health for the planet.
Development and progress do not have to be linked to increased waste. The controversial planned obsolescence, as well as the shortening of the useful life of thousands of products, will have tragic consequences.
Against this background, recycling and responsible waste management becomes everyone's responsibility. Only reuse, recycling, containment of consumption, social responsibility and an efficient waste management policy can guarantee the protection of the environment and save cities from mountains of waste that they themselves generate.
CCS Center for solidarity collaborations