Spanish entity Ecoembes, tasked with managing the recycling of packaging waste in the beverage sector, has been accused of manipulating plastic recycling data.  

A study indicates that Ecoembes claimed a 71% separate collection rate for small plastic bottles in 2021 while the actual figure stands at a mere 36%. 

Zero Waste Europe and the Zero Waste Alliance are the groups behind the study titled ‘Analysis of the Separate Collection Rate of Plastic Beverage Bottles of up to three litres in Spain’. It was led by Eunomia.  

The discrepancy in data is significant as it falls short of Spain’s legal target of a 70% collection rate by 2023.  

The failure to meet this threshold necessitates the immediate introduction of a deposit return system (DRS) for cans, bottles, and cartons, which has proven effective in more than 50 regions globally, achieving up to 90% reuse and recycling rates for beverage containers. 

In response to the findings, the groups have called on the Spanish minister for Ecological Transition and Demographic Challenge to acknowledge the noncompliance.  

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A Zero Waste Alliance spokesperson said: “This dismal 36% is a wake-up call for the Spanish government. Just admit we’ve missed the mark! As mandated by the Spanish Waste Law, it’s high time to rollout the deposit return system for beverage containers.”  

The manipulation of recycling results by Spain is considered indicative of a broader issue at the European level.  

Zero Waste Europe plans to present the report’s evidence to the European Commission to halt the spread of misleading data that obstruct the implementation of zero-waste policies.  

EU Member States are due to report initial data on the separate collection of beverage plastic bottles for 2022. 

Zero Waste Europe founder Joan Marc Simon said: “If recycling rates were achieved, it would be transformative. But the industry’s ongoing data manipulation hinders the adoption of zero-waste policies. That’s why we’re left with no choice but to bring this evidence to the European Commission, urging Eurostat to reject these fabricated figures that stall progress.”