What interests are there behind SDDR? (II)

Something is occurring with respect to the recycling system in Spain. In a previous post we explained how the autonomous regions of Valencia, the Balearic Islands and Catalonia want to implement a new system of waste collection known as SDDR (Deposit, Refund and Return System) that coexists with the current recycling system known as SIG (Integrated Waste Management System).

The law concerning packaging that is current in Spain dates back to 1997 and allows the option to choose an SDDR or SIG. Two non-profit organisations came into being under this law, which are known by the majority of citizens, Ecoembes and Ecovidrio, who periodically collect used containers and waste from packaging, from the home of the consumer or close by. These containers must be identified with the corresponding symbol, which the consumer today recognises as the recycling symbol.

Ecoembes manages the economic contributions made by the companies that subscribe to SIG (known as the green point payment) and thanks to this cooperates with the various local and regional public administrations, making it possible for more than 46 million Spanish citizens to recycle the waste generated in their homes daily. Thus, Spain has 566,957 yellow and blue containers where citizens can deposit their waste packaging.

As most people know, in order to recycle the containers that are habitually used, we must first separate the material into the corresponding waste container according to the material that it is made of. Thus, plastic containers, cans and cartons go into the yellow container and paper and cardboard packaging goes into the blue container.

It should be pointed out that the companies pay these non-profit organisations according to the containers that they put into circulation. Consequently, and as is logical, a small or medium business does not pay the same as a large company. In the case of DIA Group, the company pays more than four and a half million Euros annually for its green point (Ecoembes).

The organisation, the strategic plan, the accounts and the business activity of Ecoembes are public and can be consulted on its website by any interested party. (Link goes here)

As can be seen there, DIA is currently represented on the Ecoembes board of directors. Also present on the board is the Spanish Federation of Food and Drink Industries, which represents more than 5,000 companies in the sector in Spain and other associations such as ANEP (National Association of PET Packaging) or ARPAL (Association for the Recycling of Aluminium). Here you can consult all their members. With complete transparency.

After clearing up this point, we can move on to those involved in the new SDDR recycling system, which the respective authorities wish to implement in Valencia, the Balearic Islands and Catalonia. Here, the answers to the questions are somewhat more complicated.

As was already mentioned in the previous post, to put this system into operation it is planned to install collection machines with an average price of around 20,000 Euros in all businesses where the containers are sold, whether they are small or large companies. The consumer, who would have previously paid 10 cents more for these containers, would deposit them in this machine and the 10 cents would be refunded, provided the containers are in perfect condition and with the label intact.

The first question: who manufactures these machines and what does the system imply for them? The machines are manufactured by a Norwegian company called Tomra, which is inscribed in the Oslo Stock Exchange and has the market share in these recycling machines. Unlike Ecoembes and Ecovidrio, which are non-profit organisations created as the result of a law, behind the new system there is a single private company that must report its profits to the market. This is the reason why Tomra disclosed in its presentation of financial results in October 2016 that there was a significant market opportunity in Spain, which would involve the sale of 15,000 of its machines by 2018. (This can be seen on page 32 of its presentation). It goes without saying that there is nothing to object to in the legitimate business of the Norwegian company. The intention is to inform the citizen of who is behind the interests derived from the application of the SDDR.

Another question is: Who disseminates the advantages of the system?

The main promoter but not necessarily the only one, is Fundación Retorna. But, who is this? We cannot say much without the risk of being wrong. Unlike Ecoembes, Fundación Retorna does not reveal its organisation, or its accounts or its strategic plan, or who is on its Board, thus more than the twenty organisations that support it, there is not much that can be known.

One of the arguments that Retorna uses on its website in defence of this model, is its existence in Germany, where it coexists with its usual coloured container system. Nothing is mentioned of other countries such as Holland, where after being approved, it was decided to withdraw the system due to not being viable. No details are provided regarding the costs of implementation of this model in Germany. Who would pay for this in Spain? How would small catering companies and shops fund these machines and their installation?

The Director of Expra, which is the non-profit organisation that governs the container and packaging recovery systems in Germany, recently explained in an interview with the El Mundo newspaper his vision regarding this system that is already in operation in this country. In his opinion, the interests related to the SDDR are more economical than environmental, adding that the new system is objectively more expensive.

Consequently, why don’t we improve the current system that we already have and reject a model that can only process 9% of containers.