HOW COULD THE
WASTE RECYCLING SYSTEM CURRENTLY IN OPERATION IN BARCELONA BE
inhabitants of Barcelona are producing larger and larger amounts
of waste materials, but their selective reclamation and recycling
rate is still very low. The new "Programa MetropolitÓ de Gestiˇ
dels Residus Municipals" (Metropolitan Programme for Handling
Municipal Waste Materials) is aimed at reclaiming 60 per cent
of the city's waste materials by the year 2006, whereas the present
reclamation rate is less that 10 per cent. This is therefore an
important challenge in terms of public management which includes
an outstanding problem that still needs working on : the reclaiming
and processing of organic matter. Joaquim Ochoa, the official
presently in charge of special action guidelines at the "Direcciˇ
de Serveis de Neteja Urbana" (Office of Urban Cleaning Services)
within Barcelona City Council; journalist Antonio Cerrillo; and
Joan Salabert, member of the "Centre d'Ecologia i Projectes Alternatius"
(Alternative Projects and Ecology Centre) in the Municipal Waste
Disposal division, propose to analyze that particular problem
the solution of which requires the participation of the whole
community : citizens, city councils and companies.
The selective collection of waste materials
by Joaquim Ochoa, head of the special actions division
in the office of urban cleaning services at the city council of
production of "MWM" (Municipal Waste Materials) seems to show
a tendency towards stabilization over the last years, whereas
it had experienced a 50 per cent increase in weight and a 85 per
cent increase in volume during the decade of the nineteen eighties.
In 1999, urban refuse collection reached 1,17 kilograms per day
and inhabitant, i.e. a quantity that amounts to 429 kilograms
per year. Nevertheless, we have to take into account the presence
of non-resident populations, staying either regularly or sporadically
in Barcelona, that generate part of those waste materials.
Considering the present lack of appropriate state legislation
on waste reclamation, the City Council of Barcelona, making use
of its legislative prerogatives, voluntarily developed a system
popularly known as "selective collection", deciding about the
different types and amount of waste materials that ought to be
reclaimed depending either on demand or on their potential for
being processed into marketable products. The City Council and
the citizens of Barcelona put into practice the systematic collection
of glass containers in 1982, that of paper and cardboard in 1986,
that of metal and plastic packing (Tetra Briks, etc...) in 1990
and, some time later, the selective collection of so-called "green
waste", i.e. vegetal residues from food markets that can be used
to make compost.
we can say that both the City Council and the population of Barcelona
have pioneered this kind of "on site" selective waste collection
recently passed new laws have altered the situation. In effect,
the European Union has promulgated specific standards and measures
the enforcement of which is compulsory for all member states.
As a result, the Spanish Parliament has passed the "Ley de Envases
y Residuos de Envases" (Packaging and Packaging Waste Disposal
Law) and, subsequently, a set of related practical regulations.
On the other hand, the Catalan "Generalitat" autonomous goverment
has proceeded to adapt and update their own "Programa de Gestiˇ
de Residus Municipals" (Municipal Refuse Handling Programme) by
including a specific clause on packaging.
laws not only establish a clearly defined system of selective
collection for packaging waste, but they also consider the handling
of organic waste and the measures that should be taken to minimize
the amount of waste materials generated at the manufacturing sites.
The rubbish selective collection system which has now been adopted
throughout Catalonia is the same as the one that has already been
running in Barcelona for some time : a system based on the existence
of specific rubbish dumps to be used by the citizens on a voluntary
basis - also known as "Punts Brossa Neta" (Clean Rubbish Spots)
-, each of which is comprised of three igloo-shaped rubbish containers
in three different colours : green for glass, blue for paper and
cardboard, and yellow for lightweight packaging.
to the collaboration of the citizens, there has been a steady
increase in the amount of waste materials collected through this
amount of selectively collected glass waste was of 13.908 tons
in 1999, which shows a 10,5 per cent increase in weight over the
previous year. 1.640 specific glass waste containers have been
placed in the streets of Barcelona.
is the selective collection of paper and cardboard, which started
in 1986, that has experienced the most spectacular increase (even
though it was not as sharp in 1999 as it was in 1998). 24.317
tons were collected last year, which amounts to a 49 per cent
increase. (...) The number of available paper and carboard waste
containers is now of 1.603.
lightweight packaging collection system pioneered by the City
Council and the inhabitants of Barcelona in 1990 has reached 5.392
tons in 1999, which amounts to a 27,4 per cent increase in comparison
with the previous year. There are 1.588 lightweight packaging
waste containers in the streets of the city.
the collection of bulky objects and pieces of furniture - either
collected "door-to-door" or deposited at specific places called
"Punts verds" (Green Spots) - is concerned, it reached 19.395
tons in 1999. The rubbish deposited at these "Green Spots" (i.e.
rubbish dumps where the citizens can leave unwanted things and
waste materials, including special ones) amounted to 8.344 tons
in 1999, which shows a 19,2 per cent increase over the previous
year. At present, there are four large "Green Spots" in operation
in our city, respectively situated at Collserola, Vila OlÝmpica,
Montju´c and Vall d'Hebron.
amount of organic "green waste" intended for composting and collected
from Barcelona's different municipal markets has experienced a
97 per cent increase and reached 2.700 tons, including the waste
from the areas where a mobile pneumatic collection system is in
an outstanding problem
by Antonio Cerrillo, journalist
the total amount of municipal waste materials recycled in Barcelona
really sufficient ? Could we recycle larger amounts of rubbish
? How could that be achieved ? These are not easy questions, but
I shall try to give a personal answer on that issue. Let's proceed
stage by stage.
opening remark is that, in effect, the percentage of municipal
waste reclaimed through selective collection and recycling is
very low in Barcelona : approximately 5 per cent or, if we handle
figures in a more generous way, up to 8 per cent, including the
vegetal waste resulting from tree pruning operations. But this
is not a situation exclusive to the city of Barcelona. Practically
the whole Metropolitan Area shows very low percentages in terms
of reclamation and recycling of waste materials.
are many explanations for that situation, and the first one is
that the citizens are not even given the opportunity to co-operate
in the reclaiming process of the most important fraction of the
amount of refuse generated by their city : organic matter (in
this case, organic compounds from kitchen rubbish), given that
there are no specific containers for depositing this kind of waste
in the streets.
is no sound justification for the fact that the people of Barcelona
are prevented from co-operating in the selective collection of
organic waste when, on the other hand, they can play an active
part in the reclamation process of other waste materials such
as glass, paper and cardboard, or lightweight packaging.
So, which are the whys and wherefores of this situation ? In Barcelona,
like in other cities throughout Spain, the local authorities have
often been prompted to develop environmental policies on the basis
of initiatives from the corporate world. Enterprises from the
private sector (mainly the paper and glass industries) have in
fact pioneered and fostered waste recycling processes, either
because they were basically interested in obtaining waste materials
that could be treated and reused as raw materials in their industrial
processes, or simply because they wanted to take anticipatory
action before the introduction of official guidelines about packaging
materials and packaging waste disposal.
result is that, where waste materials are concerned, no municipal
environmental policy has ever been really designed and planned
on account of the priorities of the municipality. This explains
why, in Barcelona, there is a whole network of special rubbish
dumps for the selective collection of glass, paper and cardboard,
and lightweight packaging (tins, Tetra-Bricks and plastic containers)
while no arrangements have been made for the disposal of organic
matter. The separation of inorganic materials (glass, paper and
cardboard, plastic) has been steadily and effectively fostered
in Catalonia by the city councils and the "Generalitat" autonomous
government over the last years. This is a good thing, of course.
But that does not prevent me from considering that the recycling
of kitchen waste is still an outstanding problem that needs working
on. We should not forget that this kind of waste could serve to
make composts that would be very useful to fertilize farming land,
restore soils and quarries, or simply regenerate areas that have
been badly affected by the loss of fertile soil and a process
of gradual desertification.
1999 onwards, the "Ley de Residuos" (Waste Disposal Law) passed
by the Parliament obliges large municipalities to set up an organic
waste selective collection system. Catalan town councils have
had six years to ensure that the new waste disposal regulations
are properly obeyed. Nevertheless, very little - not to say practically
nothing - has been achieved in the implementation of those rules.
result is that little progress has been made to date in the field
of organic waste recycling. The situation is not much better where
inorganic waste materials (more specially used packaging) are
concerned, which is in large part due to the lack of public campaigns
aimed at making people more environmentally conscious as well
as to insufficient finance to extend municipal collecting services
given that the funds transferred to the city councils (from either
EcoenvÚs or Ecovidrio) together with the "ecotax" payable on lightweight
containers and packaging do not cover the costs which the installation
of special containers and transport services entail. (...)
service in a process of transformation
by Joan Salabert, member of the municipal waste disposal
at the "alternative projects and ecology centre"
In ecological terms, the generation of waste products can be equated
with a constant output of materials which are expelled by urban
systems. Within the framework of this environmentally minded approach,
the handling and processing - i.e. the "management" - of waste
materials along with the pollution of the atmosphere, soils and
waters associated with those products, constitute (who would have
guessed so ?) one of the most important elements in the global
management system of the city itself.
city of Barcelona is producing larger and larger amounts of rubbish.
In 1999, it generated 769.659 tons of municipal waste materials,
which amounts to approximately 1,4 kilos per day and inhabitant.
Approximately 9.58 per cent of urban waste materials were reclaimed
through a process of selective collection. The sheer quantity
of those waste materials entails an important problem in terms
of urban management; however, the biggest stumbling block the
city is faced with is that the large municipal dumping ground
located in Garaf has practically reached saturation point while
the refuse incineration plant at Sant AdriÓ del Bes˛s is currently
working at a such a rate that its capacity is being stretched
to its limit.
the other hand, recent experience has showed us that we cannot
merely rely on the use of dumping grounds or refuse incinerators
if what we want to find is a real solution to the current "waste
crisis" as a whole, in all its social, economic and environmental
current dumpimg grounds and, above all, the incineration plants
for municipal waste materials - which also require a special refuse
dumping place - now appear as facilities that, from a technical
as well as conceptual point of view, can only be of service for
a transitional period. The challenge we are now facing lies in
ensuring that this transitional period is as short as possible,
and our principal objective is to neutralize the so-called "refuse
crisis" by combating the very root causes of it, first by reducing
the amount and toxicity of waste materials, then by reclaiming
and recycling them so that they might be reintroduced into the
productive circuit and used as resources.
a way to face up to this challenge, the city councils in the Barcelona
Metropolitan Area have attempted to carry out a "Programa MetropolitÓ
de Gestiˇ dels Residus Municipals" (i.e. Metropolitan Programme
for Handling Municipal Waste Materials). This metropolitan programme,
which is currently being revised, establishes that, by the end
of the year 2006, 60 per cent of the total amount of municipal
waste materials should be reclaimed through a selective collection
system and subsequently recycled. Therefore, the city of Barcelona
ought to increase its refuse reclamation rate from the current
figure of 9,58 per cent up to 60 per cent. This large-scale plan
includes three differents courses of action, which all require
the active involvement of both the city council and the citizenry
in a special collaborative effort.
The selective collection and subsequent reclamation of organic
matter from urban refuse has to be developped. This is the
most important and innovative step forwards where waste handling
should be made to maximalize the reclamation of paper and
cardboard, glass and other light packaging waste materials
(plastic, metal, Tetra-Bricks, etc...).
should be taken to make the return of special waste materials
to the shops possible and, at the same time, develop the current
waste disposal services. These measures would serve to ensure
that waste products of a problematic nature are properly handled
In accordance with the PMGRM, ("Metropolitan Programme for Handling
Waste Materials"), the municipalities of Molins de Rei and Castellbisbal
have already extended their own selective waste collection services
to organic matter in the whole of their respective municipal districts.
Many other town councils have started to implement a similar system
in some sections of their areas.
public response has been positive and, for many citizens, separating
and helping to reclaim that environmentally distinctive fraction
of household refuse has become everyday practice. When organic
matter is separated from other waste products quickly enough,
many of the problems caused by mixed household refuse are neutralized.
The separate collection of organic compounds from domestic waste
is therefore our first and most important objective. (...)