Spain´s Royal Decree on Packaging and Packaging Waste: implications for the aluminium recycling industry

A few weeks ago, the Spanish government announced the approval of the Royal Decree on Packaging and Packaging Waste. This is an update of the legislation that has been in force for more than 20 years and seeks to move towards the implementation of the circular economy and achieve European objectives in terms of packaging reduction and recycling.

To achieve this, it is proposed to work in 4 main areas:
- Prevention of packaging waste
- Promotion of bulk food sales.
- Increasing the reuse of packaging and its recyclability.
- Recycling of packaging

The measure proposes to make the use of deposit, return and refund systems (DRS) mandatory for plastic bottles and aluminium cans if minimum separate collection targets are not met (70% in 2023; 85% in 2027).

If implemented, the consumer will pay a deposit supplement each time he/she buys a drink. To recover this money, they will have to deposit the empty container in reverse vending machines, which are expected to be located in shopping centres and shops of all kinds: compensation can be in cash or coupons.

Implications of the Royal Decree on Packaging and Packaging Waste for the aluminium recycling sector
The use of deposit, return and refund systems (DRS) is not new in the food sector. Born in Sweden in the 1980s, it is widely used in certain countries for the management of reusable packaging.

Its application to single-use packaging is still much more residual and the pilot tests carried out so far have mainly allowed us to understand the problems faced by the system: insufficient deposit points, need for a smartphone, recycling process without traceability, incomplete and/or inefficient

There are many issues that the Spanish government will have to resolve. If it does so, it will provide a truly beneficial solution for the environment, for citizens, but also for the aluminium recycling industry, which will have access to a higher quality raw material in much larger volumes.