It’s not uncommon in Spain to see large cardboard boxes sitting on the street next to the bins, instead of inside them.
Whether it’s as a result of the contenedores de basura (bins) being full and the boxes not fitting through the slits, leaving cardboard by the side of the bin is something that most of us living in Spain have probably been guilty of at some point.
The alarming news is that if you commit this misdemeanour in Spain, you can now actually be fined for it.
A law was passed by the Spanish government in April 2022, but it is only now coming to light following two cases of people being fined for doing exactly this.
Article 108 of law 07/2022 states that “the abandonment, including littering, the dumping and uncontrolled management of any type of non-hazardous waste puts people’s health at serious risk or is causing serious damage or deterioration to the environment”, and it is therefore an offence.
Article 109 of the same law states that the fine for minor infractions can be up to €2,001, for serious infractions penalties range from €2,001 to €100,000 and for very serious offences penalties go from €100,000 to €3.5 million.
In late September 2022, a man in the Barajas neighbourhood of Madrid received a fine from the Madrid City Council, for “leaving a box outside the dumpster meant for the disposal of cardboard”. The city hall decided that he should pay €2,001.
This is the second fine that has occurred recently, with another woman being fined in Madrid’s Aravaca neighbourhood for leaving a large cardboard box outside the bins, which contained baby nappies she bought on the internet.
She was identified because her name and address were on a sticker on the outside of the box, but she has claimed that it wasn’t her who left the box by the side of the bin but rather one of the building’s concierges who was responsible for taking out the neighbours’ rubbish.
There is no evidence that towns and cities in other regions in Spain are currently handing out such large fines to their citizens, but Spanish law states they are now at liberty to do so, and municipalities can also implement their own laws and fines relating to incorrect waste disposal.
Madrid City Council has defended its actions pointing out that it has recently drawn up its own new law for the Cleaning of Public Spaces, Waste Management and Circular Economy, and that those who are fined can reduce the amount by 40 percent if they pay in the first 15 days after receiving the fine.
The aim of this is to have a cleaner city by implementing measures that “enable the reduction of waste generation to guarantee the protection of the environment and people’s health, and to promote a greater collective awareness,” the council said in a statement.
The draft bill is set to be approved in December and includes new penalties for offences such as leaving large cardboard boxes outside their corresponding bin, with proposed fines of up to €750 for not properly recycling bottles or other glass objects.
Madrid also plans to hand out €3,000 to revellers who don’t throw away bottles and other waste from botellones (outdoor drinking gatherings).
Between now and December, when the bill will be approved, citizens can put forward their arguments stating whether they believe the sanctions are too high and if they are justified before it is voted upon by the council.
Madrid city mayor José Luis Martínez-Almeida said he was “surprised” by the high fines but explained that the final amounts will be enshrined in the new decree. He hasn’t indicated what will happen to those who have already been slapped with the higher €2,001 penalties.