Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Recycling reaches record levels


The increase in the amount of materials recycled in Portugal last year peaked at extraordinary heights.

The latest statistics reveal that the overall level increased by 10% compared to the 2018 figures.

TheMayor.EU portal for European cities and citizens has described the increase as   “staggering”. It says that “Portugal is well on its way to achieving its sustainability and recycling targets.”

The statistics are seen within the EU as a clear indication that Portuguese citizens are taking sustainability and the circular economy to heart.

A breakdown of the 2019 figures shows recycling increases of 5% in plastics, 9% in glass, 14% in paper and cardboard, 7% and 14% in steel and aluminium respectively, and 34% in wood.

This latest data was gathered by the Sociedade Ponto Verde, founded in 1996 as a private, non-profit Portuguese organisation that   manages and promotes the selection, collection and  recycling of various materials in this country.

Because of COVID-19, however, the   extremely positive trend in 2019 cannot be expected to continue this year.

 Sociedade Ponto Verde  says the pandemic is having a negative impact on recycling as the Portuguese government’s focus has shifted from sustainability goals to protecting the health of citizens with emergency regulations.

Social lifestyle limitations together with the loss of employment in certain sectors are inhibiting the separate collection of waste and its recycling, even though this is expected to remain a priority for the relevant authorities. 

Residual waste services to households were being disrupted  in 17% of Portuguese local council areas, according to the results of a survey  published on 3 April, 11 days into the government’s original three week ‘stay at home’ period. Garden, food and bulky waste were being hit hardest.

Another worrying factor is the slump in the price of oil. As crude oil is a basic component in the production of most plastic material, the price of ‘virgin’ plastic is falling substantially. This means the price of recycled plastic is coming under increasing pressure and if something is not done, many recyclers may be in trouble financially, say analysts.

“The challenges presented by global warming and the lack of a global response are always in the rear-view mirror,” say representatives of Sociedade Ponto Verde.

Their simple message to citizens is do not forget good recycling habits no matter how life has changed and how it will change further in the not too distant future.

It is only through positive and responsible policies and attitudes that improvements can truly be achieved.

According to European Community legislation, all packaging entities are responsible for the management and final destination of their packaging. They can and do delegate these responsibilities to licensed specialists such as Sociedade Ponto Verde.


The Green Dot symbol used by the Sociedade  indicates that the packaging company has delegated at its own expense the responsibility of management and recycling of packaging.  The symbol is used by a whole  European network of organizations.

Meanwhile, in line with the EU Plastics Strategy, a pilot project was launched in Portugal last July to test  container deposit scheme for beverages.  As a result, the start of  2022 will likely see  a mandatory  scheme formally introduced for the return of non-reusable plastic bottles and cans. It is hoped this will be a breakthrough,   bringing plastic recycling in Portugal back to new record levels.  







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