Spanish packaging law in further trouble

Consultative committee, local authorities, object to government's plan to implement EU directive

The Spanish environment ministry has run into further problems in its efforts to implement a national law designed to implement the 1994 EU directive on packaging and packaging waste.

Entry-into-force of the law has already been postponed until April this year, reportedly because the ministry judged the country "not ready" to comply with it in practice (ENDS Daily 22 December 1997).

Now, the ministry's own consultative committee on the environment has rejected draft regulations intended to implement the law, claiming that industry groups are over-represented on a joint committee that is to oversee the process.

The consumer and environmental organisations, trade unions, and agricultural and neighbourhood associations that comprise the consultative group have also criticised what they see as technical weaknesses in the draft regulations. In particular, they say, there is no timetable for phasing out non-returnable packaging and introducing standard, reusable containers.

Meanwhile, the Federation of Local Authorities has raised concerns over the costs of implementing the packaging law, and especially who will pay. It says that most of the costs will fall on local authorities, who will be faced with a bill of Pta50bn (Ecu0.3bn) per year.

It is asking the ministry to find ways to reduce authorities' exposure, and has suggested that revenues from the "green point" registration fees for environmental friendly packaging should be passed on to authorities. The federation is also demanding greater representation on the joint committee.

Though Spain's packaging law was passed last April, local authorities and groups represented on the consultative committee say that little has been done to ensure that the necessary infrastructure of waste containers, sorting machinery and return transport systems is put in place by 1 May, when the new rules are now due to come into force.

Spain produces around 14 million tons of domestic waste a year, nearly 45% of which consists of organic materials, while the other most important components are paper,plastics, glass and textiles.

Follow Up:
Spanish environment ministry, tel: +34 1 597 7000; Federation of Local Authorities, tel: +34 1 319 1750.

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