Recycling in Spain: Explained!

Spain, like other EU countries, has a well-developed system for recycling waste materials – but the system here might be a bit different to what you’re used to at home. Recycling bins can be found on just about every street. There are different types of recycling receptacles on different streets but don’t worry, it’s not complicated, and once you are familiar with the system it’s downright easy!

If you live in Calonge-Sant Antoni there is a new and different system of garbage collection in place as of 1 June 2019. Click on this link to find a detailed explanation in English of how the new system will work. For those living in any of the other towns on the Costa Brava, keep reading!

Knowing which bin to throw what waste products into is all about the colour code. There are basically five categories:

Green = glass;
Blue = paper and cardboard;
Brown = organic waste;
Yellow = plastic and containers;
Grey = non-recyclable trash – although in some places these grey bins are (unhelpfully!) green – but you’ll easily be able to differentiate between these and the glass bins if this is the case.

Below are some photos of some of the most typical ones:

In this first photo (1) below, we have all five types of receptacle represented. On the left, with the green stripe (albeit partly worn away) is the one for glass (don’t forget to remove those bottle tops!). You can also dispose of broken cups or plates in these green bins. Next to that is the large blue bin for paper and cardboard and beside that the smaller brown “wheelie” bin for organic waste. To the right of those are two bins with yellow stripes for plastic and containers and the last two are for whatever trash is left over that can’t be recycled. If you’re thinking that the bins with the stripes look a bit on the small side, don’t let looks deceive you – these are underground receptacles that can hold large quantities of waste.

In the next photo (2) you can see three different types of a bin. There are two yellow ones on the left for all your plastics and containers, two grey bins for general waste and a smaller brown one for organic waste. Absent here are the blue and green for paper and glass. This is quite typical as, when it comes to recycling, by far the most important is the yellow category which is where you should deposit all your containers such as tin cans, drink cartons including the tetra-brik ones (cardboard with a thin plastic lining to hold liquids), and anything else plastic.

In the final photo (3) we have an example of temporary recycling bins that are often used only during the summer months when the local population swells due to tourism. These are towed away at certain times every day and empty ones brought a little while later to replace them – so if your closest recycling station is of this type and one day it seems to have disappeared, fear not, it’ll be back shortly! Again the colour coded system is exactly the same.

There are other items that shouldn’t be thrown into the above-mentioned receptacles, but which are also easily recycled. For example, many of the supermarkets and some pharmacies in the area have containers where you can dispose of used batteries or old light bulbs (which shouldn’t be thrown in with glass bottles). Supermarkets too often have receptacles in their parking lots for clothes or shoes that you no longer want. There are also special recycling centres called deixallerias which cater for electronic items, batteries, light bulbs, ink cartridges, oil, items of furniture, garden waste, tyres and basically anything you can’t dispose of through normal waste disposal. You can check with the local town hall for the closest one to you and its opening hours and you may need to bring proof that you are resident in the town to be allowed access. If in doubt you can always callCarlos!

So, there you have it folks, that’s how recycling works in Spain. It couldn’t be much easier, could it? And no matter where you live you should have a recycling station within a few minutes’ walk so there’s really no excuse for not recycling all those everyday items that should never end up in landfills or in the ocean.

Happy recycling!!

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