Friday, 17 February 2023, 09:14
The principle of 'let the polluter pay', which basically consists of hitting those who harm the environment in their wallets, has already been adopted by many councils as a way of reducing the amount of rubbish that ends up in landfill instead of being recycled so it can be reused.
However, from 1 January this year a new tax resulting from a law which came into force last April is being applied, and it involves a charge of 30 euros for every tonne of rubbish from the grey street containers which is not given a new useful life.
The companies who run these facilities are the ones who will have to pay this tax although in reality, because the councils are their clients, it is local citizens who are going to end up footing the bill.
In Malaga province as a whole, the lack of recycling could result in a charge of over 18 million euros a year, which will be paid by the local authorities this year, although from 2025 it will be passed on to local people as part of their council taxes.
It is the State Tax Agency that is responsible for managing this new tax, although it can be delegated to associated offices in the different regions of the country. Whoever collects it, it will have to be paid at the end of every quarter from now on.
A fifth type of rubbish container has now been introduced for people to use, one which is exclusively designed to hold organic waste. This will help to progressively reduce the amount of tax which has to be paid, but it will have no impact in the short term.
Why is that? There are two reasons. First, because of the delay by town halls in providing these brown-coloured bins, even though everywhere with a population of more than 5,000 inhabitants was supposed to install them by last July, and everywhere else by the beginning of this year.
And second, because the results in the places which have been using these bins have been discouraging, because local people think they can throw any type of rubbish in them as they do the grey bins, in other words they are putting everything that is not for recycling in them.
At present, the three waste treatment plants in Malaga province (Los Ruices in Malaga city: Casares, which serves the whole of the western Costa del Sol, and Antequera for the other 19 municipalities), receive about 2,200 tonnes of solid urban waste a day (not including the contents of the recycling containers).
Of this amount, barely 600 tonnes can be used to obtain biostabilised material and compost to be sold as agricultural fertiliser, while the remaining 1,600 tonnes end up in the gigantic rubbish containers known as landfills.
To put this in context, it is the equivalent of the weight of nearly nine commercial aircraft. As there are around 584,000 tonnes a year, that is like a fleet of 3,150 Boeing 747s.
Of the total bill, more than half will have to be paid by Malaga council for the 730 tonnes of its rubbish that end up at Los Ruices, the third biggest municipal dump the city has ever had, which, judging by the way things are going, will be full within five years.
According to figures from the municipal cleaning company Limasam, there was a three per cent increase in the amount of rubbish taken to the plant in 2022 and this year the increase is expected to be similar.
Working on an average of 767 tonnes a day, Malaga's failure to separate and treat household rubbish will result in an extra cost of 8.4 million euros a year. That amount could rise to 9.2 million euros if the order which the Ministry of Finance is due to publish stipulates that the IVA sales tax of 10 per cent needs to be applied.
On the western Costa del Sol, the 11 municipalities between Torremolinos and Manilva will end up paying around 6.1 million euros for this tax in 2023, according to estimates by the Mancomunidad de Municipios de la Costa del Sol based on the 2021 figures.
These show that an average of 562 tonnes of rubbish is taken to the Casares plant every day, and in addition there are another 220 tonnes which can be recovered as biostabilised material, which otherwise would amount to another 2.4 million euros.
One entity which can boast of having done much of its homework is the Consorcio Provincial de Residuos, a body which is part of the Malaga provincial council and runs the Valsequillo environmental complex in Antequera. It handles the rubbish from 91 municipalities including Vélez-Malaga, Rincón de la Victoria, Alhaurín de la Torre, Nerja, Ronda and Antequera.
Of the 650 tonnes brought here from the grey rubbish containers every day, half are recycled as biostabilised material. This proportion will increase even more once the new line specifically for the brown containers comes into service, as it will be able to receive, treat and convert around 176 tonnes a day into compost.
Nevertheless, even with these advances which have been achieved, during 2023 they will still have to pay around four million euros in tax.
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