Spain takes a further step towards sustainable development with consultation on draft Circular Economy Strategy.

By Rosa Espín and Leticia Sitges

The Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, Food and Environment has launched a public consultation on a draft Circular Economy Strategy, which will involve the business sector, not-for-profit entities, and citizenship in the drafting process. The public consultation was open for comments until 12 March 2018.

One of the main problems of the linear traditional economy is the large production of waste that is not recycled nor valorized. According to the latest Eurostat data, Spain produced 111 million tons of waste in 2014, out of which only 24.32% was recycled (which is several points below the EU average of 36%). The draft Circular Economy Strategy aims to address this through the implementation of the so-called “circular economy,” in which the value of products, materials, and resources is maintained in the economy for as long as possible and waste generation is minimized. Achieving sustainable development is a key point of this strategy, in line with the objectives set out by the Paris Agreement and the Sustainable Development Agenda 2030 adopted by the United Nations.

The draft Circular Economy Strategy implements the EU circular economy action plan, which the European Commission adopted in December 2015 under the heading of “Closing the loop.” Several lines of action can be identified within the draft Circular Economy Strategy: production, consumption, waste management, secondary row materials, and reutilization of water. The government will adopt different action plans to achieve these lines of action. The first Action Plan, for 2018-2020, includes three additional points for consideration, which aim to facilitate a transition to the circular economy:

  • Citizenship awareness and involvement
  • R&D and competitiveness policies
  • Promotion of employment and trainingThe draft Circular Economy Strategy sets out 11 strategic objectives, including the following:

Even if the draft Circular Economy Strategy has a multidisciplinary approach, the construction and demolition sector, agro-food, industry as a whole, consumer goods, and tourism are of particular importance. Construction and demolition waste represents between 25%-30% of all waste produced within the EU, and thus, constitutes a priority action area at a EU level, with significant potential for improvement. This figure is even higher considering that the Framework Directive on Waste proposal establishes that “by 2020, the preparing for re-use, recycling and backfilling of non-hazardous construction and demolition waste (…) shall be increased to a minimum of 70% by weight,” in comparison to the 50% minimum currently required by the Framework Directive on Waste (Directive 2008/98/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 19 November 2008 on waste).

The draft Circular Economy Strategy sets out 11 strategic objectives, including the following:

  • The protection of the environment and the guarantee of human health, by reducing the use of nonrenewable sources and reusing certain materials incorporated into the waste as raw materials.
  • Boosting the analysis of the products lifecycle and the introduction of eco-design criteria, reducing the addition of hazardous substances during manufacturing, enabling the fixing of the manufactured products, increasing their lifespan, and allowing their final valorization.
  • The effective application of the waste hierarchy principle, through avoiding waste generation, fostering reuse, and promoting recycling and traceability.
  • The promotion of patterns that increase global innovation and efficiency of manufacturing process through the implementation of environmental management systems.

Consistent with these objectives, the Action Plan 2018-2020 includes 70 actions specifying the competent department, the timeline for the action’s adoption, as well as the allocated budget. Some of the most significant actions include:

  • Fostering the EU Ecolabel, which is a voluntary instrument identifying products that have a reduced environmental impact throughout their lifecycle. The EU Ecolabel is an important tool for “Green Public Procurement,” which is in line with the global Sustainable Development Goal of promoting sustainable public procurement practices.
  • Promoting energy efficiency in tourist accommodation. To that end, the Ministry of Energy, Tourism and Digital Agenda has entered into an agreement with the Spanish Official Credit Institute to fund actions focused on achieving this target.
  • Waste management will be one of the most important actions to be implemented. The EU is currently revising the current Framework Directive on Waste and, once enacted, the Spanish regulations on waste will need to be amended accordingly. For instance, new definitions are under discussion (i.e., municipal waste) with new objectives for reuse and recycling.

The draft Circular Economy Strategy will provide for the actions and plans necessary to shift from the current traditional economy to a circular economy, under which Spain will try to develop a sustainable, low carbon, resource-efficient, and competitive economy.

Latham will continue to monitor and report on Circular Economy Strategy developments.