Spain proposes new plastic packaging tax

The Spanish government on Tuesday proposed new legislation on rubbish that seeks to dramatically reduce single-use plastic packaging, notably by taxing it.

Spain proposes new plastic packaging tax
Photo: AFP

The move specifically aims to reduce the plastic cups and bottles used in the fast food and take-away sectors.

“If we add up all the waste generated in a year in Spain… it would be enough to fill up the Santiago Bernabeu stadium 2,900 times,” said Environment Minister Teresa Ribera of Real Madrid's 80,000-seat stadium in the Spanish capital.

Photo: AFP

“And just the plastic packaging from our homes alone would fill up 45 such stadiums,” she added, after the cabinet meeting at which ministers approved an extensive draft law on waste and soil contaminants to comply with European directives.

In summer 2021, certain products will be banned, such as cotton buds, plastic straws and cutlery.   

A special tax on plastic packaging will be brought in by January 2023, meaning consumers will pay a little more for any take away that includes a plastic container or cup, which will be itemised on the bill.

“The special tax on single-use plastic containers will be indirect and will impact the manufacture, import or acquisition within the European Union of non-reusable plastic containers for use within the Spanish market,” a ministry
statement said.   

“This is a similar tax to that being implemented in other neighbouring countries such as the United Kingdom or Italy.”

In imposing a tax of 0.45 euros per kilogramme (2.2 pounds) of packaging, the government hopes to bring 724 million euros per year into the state coffers.


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Police operation targets illegal water tapping in Spain

More than 130 people were arrested or placed under investigation for illegal water tapping last year, Spain’s Guardia Civil police said on Wednesday following a huge operation.

Police said most of their operations took place “in fragile and vulnerable areas such as the Doñana natural park”
Police said most of their operations took place “in fragile and vulnerable areas such as the Doñana natural park” in Andalusia. Photo: CRISTINA QUICLER / AFP

During the year-long operation, “133 people were arrested or investigated for extracting water through more than 1,533 illegal infrastructure devices”, the police’s environmental unit said in a statement.

A similar operation in 2019 had targeted 107 people.

Spain is one of the European countries most at risk from the impact of drought caused by global warming, scientists say.

Water usage issues are often at the heart of heated political debates in Spain where intensive agriculture plays an important role in the economy.

Police said most of their operations took place “in fragile and vulnerable areas such as the Doñana natural park” in the southern Andalusia region, one of Europe’s largest wetlands and a Unesco World Heritage bird sanctuary.

They were also operating in “in the basins of Spain’s main rivers”.

In Doñana, police targeted 14 people and 12 companies for the illegal tapping of water for irrigation, a police spokesman said.

Ecologists regularly raise the alarm about the drying up of marshes and lagoons in the area, pointing the finger at nearby plantations, notably growing strawberries, which are irrigated by illegally-dug wells.

“The overexploitation of certain aquifers for many reasons, mainly economic, constitutes a serious threat to our environment,” the Guardia Civil said.

The European Court of Justice rapped Spain over the knuckles in June for its inaction in the face of illegal water extraction in Donana which covers more than 100,000 hectares (250,000 acres) and is home to more than 4,000 species, including the critically endangered Iberian lynx.

According to the government’s last official estimate, which dates back to 2006, there were more than half a million illegal wells in use.

But in a 2018 study, Greenpeace estimated there were twice as many, calculating that the quantity of stolen water was equivalent to that used by 118 million people — two-and-a-half times the population of Spain.

Spanish NGO SEO/Birdlife also on Wednesday raised the alarm about the “worrying” state of Spain’s wetlands.