Last year, 1,683,890 tons of these containers were recycled, turning them into new raw materials used to manufacture products such as textiles, pipes, urban furniture, or new containers. 73% of these tons came from separate collection in more than 650,000 yellow and blue containers on the streets and the 57,000 recycling points located in high-traffic areas. The recycling of these containers prevented the emission of 1.7 million tons of CO2 into the atmosphere. Since Ecoembes launched the household recycling system for plastic, metal, brick, wood, paper, and cardboard containers in Spain in 1997, the amount of these wastes sent for recycling has grown steadily. In 2023 alone, 1,683,890 tons of these containers were recycled, which represents a 3.5% increase compared to the previous year and a 12% increase over the past five years.

By material type, 733,673 tons were plastic containers (3.5% more than in 2022); 697,305 were paper and cardboard (+4.6%); 243,604 were metal (+0.1%); and 9,308 tons were wooden containers (+3.28%). All these tons were recycled in one of the 495 recyclers approved by Ecoembes, which guarantee the proper treatment of container waste, thus contributing to its circularity. In addition to saving virgin raw materials, recycling household containers to manufacture new products – such as textiles, pipes, urban furniture, or new containers, among others – also brings other environmental benefits. Specifically, in 2023, it resulted in the saving of 9.84 million MWH of energy, 15.53 million m3 of water, and avoided the emission of 1.7 million tons of CO2 into the atmosphere.

Where did the tons of containers recycled in 2023 come from? 73.1% of the recycled tons come from separate collection, which includes both municipal separate collection (60.1%) – through yellow and blue containers on the street – and private collection (13%) through recycling points located in high-traffic areas such as stadiums, airports, stations, or large events. The remaining 26.9% was recovered from waste treatment plants that handle mixed waste, where all types of unsorted waste arrive.

Municipal separate collection: of the total tons of household containers recycled in 2023, 60.1% (1,012,036 tons) came from what citizens separate in their homes and deposit in one of the 397,721 yellow containers (for plastic, metal, and brick containers) and 253,322 blue containers (for paper and cardboard containers) on the streets. Once collected, these are taken to one of the 97 sorting plants distributed throughout the territory. Specifically, each citizen separated, on average, 19.6 kg in the blue container (+2%) and 20.4 kg in the yellow container (+5.15%) over the year. Although the recycling habit is well established and grows every year, other wastes still end up in the yellow container incorrectly. In fact, in 2023, 31.9% of the waste deposited in the yellow container were not containers. To make municipal separate collection possible, Ecoembes collaborates with various local public administrations through 56 agreements that establish the conditions and funding of these infrastructures. In 2023, 646 million euros were allocated to local public administrations for this purpose.

Private separate collection: Ecoembes complements municipal separate collection with private collections in high-traffic areas with a significant presence of containers, such as sports stadiums, airports, offices, or leisure parks. 13% of the containers recycled in 2023 (219,424 tons) came from what was collected at the 57,643 recycling points and 310 RECICLOS machines located in these places. Ecoembes collaborates with these spaces through customized projects that include containerization, sorting, treatment, and monitoring of waste, as well as raising awareness among staff and users. In these cases, private managers are responsible for collecting the containers and transporting them to sorting plants.

Recovery from plants that treat mixed waste:  Finally, the remaining 26.9% of recycled household containers (452,430 tons) was recovered from mixed waste treatment plants – gray container – where unsorted waste arrives. This figure shows that, although recycling is a well-established environmental habit, there is still work to be done to expand it further. “Thanks to public administrations, companies, and citizens, we have promoted a collaborative model that has made recycling the most widespread environmental behavior in our country and a reference today. We are proud to have managed to recycle 1.7 million tons of containers and give them a second life,” said Rosa Trigo, CEO of Ecoembes. “After more than 25 years of experience, we are now focusing on working for a future without waste, beyond recycling. We need to produce less waste and also be able to reuse it. It is not only about meeting the ambitious objectives set by legislation but also about responding to the needs of the planet.” The costs of the process coordinated by Ecoembes are covered by the income received from its more than 14,000 clients – companies that market containers in the Spanish market – who deposit their environmental responsibility with it, as mandated by law, to ensure that these containers are properly recycled.

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