Barcelona vows to go zero waste ahead of stronger EU waste laws

 Cities across Europe are increasing efforts to up recycling and avoid waste. This week META takes a look at Barcelona’s new Zero Waste strategy and its newly introduced door-to-door separate collection of waste.

Barcelona has launched its first door-to-door separate waste collection scheme this week as part of its Zero Waste strategy, which policy experts say will help the city comply with the upcoming new EU legislation on waste management and prevention.

The scheme is being launched in Sarria, an old district in the city of Barcelona, and is expected to be extended to other districts in the coming months.

The collection will take place four times a week instead of every day and will include plastic, paper, metals, organic waste and sanitary waste.

Trucks will collect separately and at designated times the waste left in small and apposite containers outside people’s homes in an effort to facilitate and improve the quality of recycling.

Current rates for separate collection of household waste in Barcelona currently stand at 36%, but the aim is to reach a 60% rate thanks to this new initiative, said Elena Diez of the NGO Rezero, which helped set out the strategy. He told META:

Local authorities are making it easier for citizens to separate different waste streams and also easier for waste operators to collect and process the waste in the city’s recycling facilities.”

The new scheme will also lead to cleaner streets and a reduction in air and noise pollution due to improved collection and the use of fewer collection trucks, local authorities said in a message to citizens.

Separate collection is one of the key enablers of recycling which is necessary to transition to a circular economy. EU countries have been obliged to use separate collection since 2015, but door-to-door collection remains optional and limited to certain areas despite its success in cities like Milan, Ljubljana and Parma.

In Milan, the door-to-door scheme helped increase recycling rates from 34.5% to 48.5% in only 3 years. A survey also revealed that 79% of the citizens were particularly happy with the separate collection of organic waste.

In Barcelona, the move has come as part of the city’s Zero Waste strategy which aims to reduce waste and improve recycling.

The city has already launched repair workshops where people can learn to fix products such as bicycles and electronic goods instead of throwing them away. Other notable commitments include measures to reduce the amount of take-away packaging in restaurants and campaigns to raise awareness about the benefits of waste prevention.

Commenting on the strategy, Garcia told META:

We are very happy that our proposal for door-to-door separate collection has finally been implemented. We are confident that this is just the beginning of a new and greener Barcelona.

Barcelona’s Zero Waste strategy is in line with the decision by the EU institutions and countries to increase recycling targets and tackle the wasteful use of resources, said Piotr Barczak, waste policy officer at the European Environmental Bureau (EEB). He added:

Cities must be at the heart of the circular economy. EU and national institutions can show us the path towards a more sustainable and responsible society, but only people at the local level can introduce the change we need to preserve the planet for future generations.”

According to the new EU waste laws agreed last December, member states will now be required to recycle at least 65% of their household waste by 2035.

Currently, on average, less than 50% of waste in the EU is recycled. But Barczak said that the new targets will be attainable thanks to other measures that were approved in December. These include a 10% cap on landfill by 2035, mandatory separate collection of organic materials and stricter schemes to make producers pay for the collection of key recyclables.


See Barcelona’s Zero Waste strategy