Recycling in Malaga. Part I

Recycling is not the most viable solution to waste disposal. With more emphasis today on sustainability the aim is to encourage a circular economy by reducing waste rather than hoping it is somehow reincarnated.

Recycling has its place of course. But with question marks over what can be recycled, the cost of recycling, as to where our recycling actually ends up, the other R’s are being pushed to the forefront: Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Repair, Recondition, Rehome, Replant and Rot. All preferable zero waste options before Recycle jumps in on the alphabet bandwagon.

Perhaps the biggest R is Responsibility – and taking it for our own waste. Imagine if there were no bins or waste disposal systems and you had to dispose of your own rubbish or watch it pile up in your own garden. How would you manage it more effectively?

Sometimes of course, with supermarket shelves carelessly dishing up an endless supply of packaged goods there’s simply no getting away from plastic, glass or paper packaging. And that’s when recycling is often the only option.

So what’s the situation in Spain?

A couple of years ago a study was understaken to compare the 28 countries in the EU. Spain was ranked as sixth in the EU in terms of recycling packaging.

Meanwhile the Ministry of Ecological Transition says 38 per cent of all plastic packaging is recycled. Ecoembes, the company responsible for plastic recycling in Spain says the figure is double this amount and more like 78 per cent.

But before you raise your glass of tinto, a damning report by Greenpeace launched earlier this year claims only 25.4 per cent of plastic packaging recovered in Spain was actually recycled. Not 38 per cent. Or indeed 78 per cent.

Greenpeace claims Spain dumps around 787,000 tons of waste in landfill, 172,000 is incinerated and 282,500 is recycled. Does some of it end up in Malaysia? Possibly.


There’s always lots of confusion about what can be recycled and every council, city and province has its own different criteria. This focuses primarily on the province of Malaga.

In Spain there a total of 384,000 yellow containers and 217,000 blue containers. There are a total of 95 sorting plants through the country of which there are 19 in Andalucia. In the province of Malaga waste collection service is divided into three zones – Costa del Sol, Malaga city and Inland.


On the Costa del Sol a company called Urbaser takes care of the urban waste and collection of recycling products covering the municipalities of Benahavis, Benalmadena, Casares, Estepona, Fuengirola, Istan, Manilva, Marbella, Mijas, Ojen and Torremolinos – around 510,000 inhabitants.

The Costa del Sol plant (The Costa del Sol Envivornmental Complex) is located in Casares and there are four transfer stations in Marbella, Mijas, Torremolinos and Benalmadena. Waste comes in from the municipalities or transfer stations and is classified – organic waste is composted and leftover waste is put into landfill. Last year Urbaser dealt with around 330,000 tonnes of urban waste

Urbaser looks after 4,132 yellow containers with an annual collection of 9,700 tonnes of plastic waste. Meanwhile paper and cardboard is collected via 2,572 iglu containers collecting 6,600 tonnes annually whilst there is also a ‘door to door’ collection in operation for commercial and small companies. This collects around 1,350 tonnes a year.

Urbaser was set up in 1999 and manages waste in various Spanish cities and also has a presence in France and the UK. It currently operates 128 treatment plants.


Limasa is the company responsible for the management of waste in the city of Malaga. With 600,000 residents this rockets when there are ferias and events in the city plus tourists.

Waste is taken to the Los Ruices Centre Ambiental de Malaga (CAM) which opened in 1994. One landfill was closed and sealed here in 2011 and there is now a second in operation which deals with around 350,000 tonnes of waste per year. There is a network of BioGas capture wells which help generate fuel for electricity production.

Rubbish collection in Malaga is operated throughout the evenings and there are some 300 operators who work throughout the city.

For plastic waste Limasa has almost 52,500 underground yellow bin containers, 29,300 igloo style and 377,850 lateral load yellow bin containers throughout the city.

Meanwhile paper and cardboard recyclable waste from the city is accepted by Smurfit Kappa who are responsible for the recycling of the waste paper. There are over 588,000 blue containers in the city including almost 98,000 underground containers, 124,330 igloo style and 366,380 lateral loads. The city also offers a door to door collection service and a mobile Punto Limpo service which moves around the city where people can deposit smaller items such as batteries, oil and small electronics (toasters, dvd players etc) and paint tins. The main Punto Limpio is on the Poligono Guadalhorce.


The Consorcio Provincial Residuos Solidos Urbanos Malaga (RSU) was set up to manage urban solid waste in the province of Malaga  and covers the municipalities within Guadalhorce, Antequera, Ronda and Axarquia so a third of the population of the entire province – 550,000 residents in 91 municipalities. 

There are already two sealed landfills in Ronda and Viñuela whilst Casarbonela also closed recently and will also be sealed in the near future. The current landfill open and operative is the Complejo Medioambiental de Valsequillo in Antequera.

Waste collection operation exists in two ways either a) the RSU collects waste from the containers around the municipalities or b) the city council collects the waste and moves it to a specific point to be collected by the RSU often in areas with difficult access points. There are waste transfer stations located in Archidona, Campillos, Ronda, Cartama and Velez Malaga.

The site takes in most waste such as paper and cardboard, building works, organic residue, furniture, plastic bottles, glass, batteries and electrical waste (RAEE). In the last year the Valsequillo plant has dealt with 301,000 tons of waste in total meaning each person produces around 2kg of waste a day. In terms of recycling per day the RSU collects around 62 tons of waste in total or around 22,600 tons per year.

Last year this was broken down into a collection of:

  • 8,700 tons of yellow bin waste from 4,200 containers
  • 7,000 tons of paper and cardboard from 2,344 containers
  • 6,900 tons of glass from 2,550 containers.

At the beginning of this year a new compost landfill site opened at the Antequera plant which aims to deal with the 700 tons of ‘organic’ waste deposited into the grey bins each day. The installation will allow 40 per cent of treated waste to be recovered and used to produce biostabilised material (compost) whilst any recyclable products can be rescued. It has cost €19m and was financed by European funds and there are two treatment lines open with a third due to be added.

For an overview of ‘what to recycle and where’ visit: Recycling in Malaga Part II

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