World Recycling Day: “Portugal could do a lot better”

Environmentalists point to ‘failure in all waste’; recycling authority sees improvement

Portugal is not looking ‘good’ on World Recycling Day, say environmentalists, pointing to “failure” in all waste, while the other side of the coin – the Ponto Verde recylcing entity claims there have been improvements, but yes, the country ‘could do better’.

Citing data for 2020, Association Zero explains that only 16.1% of municipal waste produced was sent for recycling – a long way perceived targets.

The same goes for electrical and electronic waste: only 15 per cent was collected in 2020, less than a quarter of the 65% target.

The picture improves for pesticide packaging – with 48.4% collection in 2020, where the target was 55%; and for batteries – with 29% collection in 2019 against a target of 45%.

Zero adds that the recycling rate of municipal waste dropped 4.9 percentage points in 2020, meaning reality “contradicts the official line that in a pandemic year there would have been widespread compliance with recyclables forwarding practices”.

The association believes the “continued focus on selective collection through ecopoints (recycling points) instead of door-to-door collection” helps explain the “stagnation, or even reduction” of the recycling rate over the years.

It also warns of “underfunding of the selective collection system by packaging management bodies” which represents annual losses of €35 million for municipalities, and that packaging placed on the market is more than is declared: producers declare 16% but 27% of packaging appears in municipal waste breakdowns.

Zero adds that waste management fees are “very low” and do not discourage sending to landfill or burning materials that could be recycled.

As for electrical and electronic waste, there is “a long-heralded collapse” with producers underfunding the management system – an annual deficit of around €50 million – and dealers and distributors failing to meet “their obligation to collect old equipment when selling new”, which contributes to “the disposal of refrigerators in illegal dumps“.

Zero argues that a deposit/return system is needed, an “essential tool” to get people back on track with recycling.

Ponto Verde, however, sees the picture rather differently, and is marking International Recycling Day with the launch of a campaign that promises “prizes for citizens, communities and parish councils“.

The company maintains that “Portugal is a good packaging recycling country and has installed capacity to recycle more and better” (…) “if each citizen recycled, on average, 4.5 kilos of packaging per month, it would be possible to reach national targets”.

For now, there is “one ecopoint (recycling point) per 143 inhabitants“, a total of 70,000 compared to 45,000 in 2019.

“It is necessary to greatly improve the performance of the system and the service delivered to the citizen,” Ponto Verde admits, pointing out that in 2021 “435 thousand tonnes of packaging” were sent for recycling, 6.4% more than the previous year, while in the first quarter of this year 105 thousand more tonnes were recycled than in the same period last year”.

On Thursday (May 19), members of the Portuguese Pact for Plastics, which brings together more than a hundred companies, municipalities and entities linked to plastics will launch a campaign to encourage recycling.

“Recicla o Plástico” is the name of the campaign which will be visible in streets and shops and on the website, where questions about recycling can be clarified.

Source: Lusa