6. Future

More than ever, the future is green

“Europe and Spain are committed to the development of a green economy, which will be crucial for meeting the targets of the fight against climate change and to consolidate a production model based on a circular and sustainable economy that improves the well-being of its citizens”

The environment as a future commitment for Europe

The Paris Agreement and the Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda laid the bases for the transformation of the current economic model and marked out the path to follow towards goals that need to be met urgently in order to achieve a sustainable future by dealing with the climate crisis.

The implementation of the Green Deal will be one of the central pillars on which the economic and social recovery of Europe as a whole will be based, spurred on by the Next Generation EU funds. There is no turn back of the decarbonisation goals, even if the ways to reach them are still under development.

The Green deal sets out a growth strategy in order to transform the European Union into a modern economy, efficient in its use of resources and competitive, with the goal to ensure that net greenhouse gas emissions are no longer produced in 2050, decoupling economic growth from the use of resources, and not leaving anybody behind in this development.

With this purpose, the European Commission promoted an Action Plan for the Circular Economy for a cleaner, more competitive Europe, which contains a package of measures aimed at preventing waste generation and will influence the management and control measures, fostering circularity and a greener, more competitive Europe.

Furthermore, the European Union through a European Climate Law will reinforce its emission cutting goals and targets. The overall target of this standard, the first of this type in Europe, will be to reach carbon neutrality by 2050, i.e. it will only be possible to emit greenhouse gases that can be absorbed by the sinks, such as woods or other plant ecosystems.

In line with these initiatives, the European Parliament has also called for the urgent adoption of binding regulations throughout the European Union to ensure that companies are liable and subject to sanction when they cause or contribute to causing damage, to human rights, the environment or governance.

There is no doubt that green employment will be one of the big pillars of the recovery, with re-use growing in importance. According to a report drawn up by RREUSE, the international network that represents social enterprises operating in the circular economy, the number of job positions linked to the circular economy in the European Union grew 5% between 2012 and 2018.

The study indicates that social enterprises operating in re-use create on average 70 jobs for every 1,000 tons of material collected. As for activities focusing on the re-use of electric and electronic products, this figure stands at 140 jobs for every 1,000 tons of material collected.

Important changes in regulations at national level

In line with this European approach, in Spain the principles of the Spanish Circular Economy have been developed, laying the foundations to overcome the linear economy and promote a new production and consumption model in which the value of products, materials and resources is kept in the economy for as long as possible.

This strategy sets targets that will enable us to reduce national consumption of materials by 30% and cut waste generation by 15% compared to 2010, over the course of this decade.

In the WEEE management sphere, we can highlight the recent coming into force of Royal Decree 27/2021 which modified both the previous Royal Decree 110/2015 on waste electric and electronic equipment and Royal Decree 106/2008 on batteries and accumulators, which introduced certain new features in WEEE management.

Among other changes, it is worth mentioning the promotion of the use of incentives for the application of the waste hierarchy principle and the promotion of reuse, the clarification of the role of producers in terms of their responsibility, the adaptation of the individual systems of Extended Responsibility of the Producer, and the updating of the amounts of the financial guarantees of the Extended Responsibility Systems.

On the other hand, the draft Law on Waste and Contaminated Soils, currently in process, reviews the current regulations to comply with the new targets established in the European directives on the Circular Economy Package promoted by the European Union in 2018.

The draft bill includes new definitions and the review of the scope, setting waste generation reduction targets for the medium and long term, reinforcing the waste hierarchy and incorporating targets for preparation for re-use and recycling.

And, finally, it is worth mentioning the new Royal Decree 553/2020  on the transfer of waste within Spanish territory, which aims to be fully coherent with the EC Regulation and is intended to improve the traceability of transfers from the place of origin of the waste to the final destination, ensuring its correct processing.

Our commitment for a sustainable future

The development of the green economy thus opens up a window of opportunity for the economic and social recovery. A recent study performed by MAPFRE and the Chamber of Commerce indicates that currently 2% of employment in Spain is linked to a circular economy production and consumption model, a figure well above the European average.

The report estimates that, depending on investment and regulatory developments, up to 160,000 jobs could be generated in our country by 2030 linked to increase recycling, re-use, restoring of products as new for the purpose for which they were sold, and the increase in process automation.

Ecotic will maintain its commitment to the development of the WEEE recovery, recycling and re-use sector, working towards its consolidation as a strategic feature of the present and future for environmental and economic sustainability in our country and throughout Europe.

To do this, we will promote initiatives that pool shared efforts and values, in order to make progress towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals such as alliances to achieve goals, action for the climate, responsible production and consumption, and the reduction of inequalities, always with the collaborative and supportive spirit that is in our DNA.

As for the changes in regulations governing the electronics recycling sector, although progress is being made leading to significant improvements, we believe that the need to evolve towards an open system, which extends responsibility for WEEE management to the entire waste value chain, from the competent authorities to consumers themselves, has yet to be addressed.

The current model places all collection responsibilities on the producers and the Producer Responsibility Organisations, but it is not possible to manage waste we cannot access, so we will not be able to achieve the targets set without making substantial changes in our approach to the problem.

Ecotic will continue to advocate, both in Spain and in Europe through our participation in WEEE Forum, that the regulation governing the management of WEEE adopt a practical approach adapted to the WEEE management context, and that it extend the responsibility for its success to all stakeholders.

Administrations, producers, distributors, installers and consumers themselves must all play an active role so that electronics recycling can advance as required to promote a true circular economy.

We are convinced that these first 15 years have been just the beginning of an unstoppable transformation for the sake of the sustainability on which the economic and social well-being of the entire continent and the very future of our planet will depend. And we will invest all our efforts in achieving this goal.