New tax to improve selective waste collectionAround 800,000 tonnes of waste is generated in Barcelona every year, equating to 493 kilos per inhabitant. Some 60% of waste collected from street containers ends up in landfill sites or at incineration plants. Only 37.7% of waste goes into specific containers for organic matter, plastic, glass and paper. European regulations mean that selective waste collection levels should be over 50% in 2020. To help that leap come about and increase selective waste collection, tax by-laws are to be used to apply a new monthly charge for waste collection.
The new waste generation tax on private homes will come into force midway through 2020 and will be added to water bills, as currently happens with the tax for waste treatment. In most cases the tax will be somewhere between 2,25 and 4,25 euros a month, determined by the water consumption of each household.
The tax is consistent with the metropolitan zero-waste agreement to build in payment systems for the use of the collection service. The charge will gradually be transformed into an individual payment system between now and 2025, firstly applied at a district level and later at a neighbourhood level, with each household paying for the waste it generates. This individualised payment system determined by waste generation will reward people who recycle the most and penalise those who don’t. The system will start being applied with the new cleaning contract, still to be awarded, and the roll-out of smart waste containers.
The collection of the tax, providing revenue of 20 million euros in 2020 and 41 million a year as from 2021, will be used to fund part of the new cleaning contract which will be awarded in 2020. It will also help comply with the European directive obliging municipalities to improve their waste management and gradually step up selective waste collection. The EU regulations mean that selective collection must account for 50% of waste collection in 2020, to be increased 5% every five years until levels of 65% are reached in 2035.
Separating waste as the most economical and sustainable option
Selective waste collection in Barcelona has hovered at between 35% and 37% for a few years, the rest being put into ordinary waste containers, making it more expensive to deal with and meaning it ends up at incinerator plants as it cannot be recycled. It costs 206 euros to collect and treat a ton of this type of rubbish, while a ton of organic waste costs 40% less to process, at 124 euros.
If selective waste collection levels in Barcelona were 60%, estimates put the cost of waste collection and treatment at 163 euros per household per year, nearly 30 euros less than the current cost of 191 euros.
Exemptions and discounts for the waste collection tax
The Barcelona City Council by-law regulating the tax on the collection of household waste allows for exemptions in 12,500 households at risk of energy poverty, in accordance with Act 24/2015. It also allows for discounts in the following cases:
- Reduction of 5% for homes with recognised special water rates, for example large families.
- Reduction of 5% for people with degrees of disability equal to or exceeding 75%.
- Reduction of up to 14% maximum for users of Barcelona’s permanent or mobile green point recycling facilities (punt verd).
Calendar for the application of the waste collection tax
- December 2019: initial approval by the Commission for Economy and Tax and the Full Council.
- January 2020: public scrutiny period for challenges and amendments.
- February 2020: final approval by the Full Council.
- May 2020: implementation of the monthly tax, to be charged on water bills.