Recycling, the last link in the chain

Recycling, the last link in the chain

Last week the congress was held at the FIRA in Barcelona FREE FROM FOOD EXPO. The event brought together different sectors of the food industry, as well as industries related to food consumption.

In this sense, within the framework of the congress, we find FREE FROM PLASTICS PACKAGING, a section of the congress in which different companies in the sector of the packaging offered novelties in ecological matter and sustainable solutions to the big problem of the plastic containers.

In this edition of FREE FROM PLASTIC, much emphasis was placed on the recyclable nature of plastic substitutes. The role was the main protagonist in the different stands and conferences that manufacturers and companies in the sector agreed to see as the future of packaging. The paper, in its different compositions, can be recycled up to 6 times. That is, we can use products already recycled and recycle them once their use is finished.


Newspaper, books, folios, envelopes, folders, cardboard boxes, bags, toilet paper, napkins, decorative paper ... There are numerous different types of paper and they can all be recycled.

In this sense, the Spanish Association of Manufacturers of Pulp, Paper and Cardboard, ASPAPEL offered a very interesting conference on recycling in which they compared recycling according to what type of material.

The recycling of plastics offers many limitations, since a plastic that is thrown into the yellow container needs to be crushed, washed and melted to form a pellet (small grains of plastics), with which new products are formed. This process can be expensive and polluting in some cases, and it would never be recycled more than 4,5 times.

The problem is that sooner or later that plastic will end up in a landfill since its use is limited. In addition, any recycled plastic container cannot be used to come into contact with food.


In contrast to this, we find the example of the paper. The paper sector offers a series of guarantees at the recycling level that no other sector has. In addition, from ASPAPEL, various initiatives are developed on environmental issues such as forestry education program or the Pajaritas Azules program, for advice and certification of local entities, for the promotion of good practices in the management of selective collection of paper and cardboard.

It is important to analyze recycling within what is called circular economy, since quality recycling is the best way to close the productive circular cycle, optimizing the use of a natural and renewable resource such as wood.

The key data to measure the level of recycling are:

-How much paper and cardboard of the total consumed in Spain is collected for recycling once used.

-How much recycles our paper industry.


In both cases, Spain gets a very good grade. The collection rate (percentage of collection over total consumption) has moved in Spain in recent years around the European average (72%) even slightly above. And with regard to the recycling rate (consumption of reused paper as raw material over total consumption) whose European average was 62%, we currently exceed it by 12 points. We are also, in terms of volume, the third paper industry that recycles the most in Europe..

Recycling paper inside large surfaces, printing presses, industry, etc. It is practically 100%. Where there is room for improvement is in domestic collection, which currently stands at around 60%

Despite these promising data, there are areas for improvement. The new challenge of the circular paper economy is quality recycling. This arises due to the new role of paper and cardboard packaging, together with the growing weight of electronic commerce.

Kraft paper bag


Quality recycling aims to adapt selective collection systems to these new scenarios, to make it more effective. Improve the quality of the material collected, recover as much as possible for recycling and do so with the necessary quality requirements for effective recycling.

All these data, and many more, are collected in the Sustainability Report prepared by ASPAPEL, which you can find here. It is essential that we recycle as much as possible and avoid acquiring, to the extent possible, products whose packaging is not recyclable. Thus, we will have the certainty of contributing our grain of sand to the circular economy.

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