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Where does our waste go?

A NATIV tours the Ca na Putxa Environmental Area to find out what happens after we throw our waste into the rubbish bin
Text by Luciana Aversa · Photos: Isa Flores
22/07/2023

Although it may sound like a cliché, “the best waste is the waste that is never generated,” says Montse Ruiz Costa, Ibiza Island Council’s environment technician. She is responsible for ensuring the proper functioning of the Ca na Putxa Environmental Area, which marked a turning point for waste management in Ibiza when it opened in 2021.

The island has a recycling and waste-treatment system that starts when each person fulfils their responsibility to dispose of their rubbish in the right container. “Each kind of waste has its corresponding container in the street. The municipal garbage trucks collect it from there and take it to one facility or another depending on its type,” explains Ruiz.

The glass, paper and cardboard collected in Ibiza is taken to be recycled on the mainland.
The Ca na Putxa Environmental Area has radically improved recycling on the island since it opened in 2021

Glass (from the green containers) and paper and cardboard (blue container) arrive at the Transfer Station located in Es Gorg, in Ibiza municipality, and are sent by sea to recycling companies on the mainland. These include the Saica plant in Zaragoza, which manufactures recycled paper, and glassworks in Tarragona, via Mallorca company TM Alcudia, as directed by state-glass recycling administrator Ecovidrio.

The other materials are transported to the Ca na Putxa Environmental Area, managed by Unión Temporal de Empresas (UTE) Giref, which receives general waste (from the grey container), lightweight packaging (from the yellow container) and organic waste (brown container). “These materials are all treated differently,” Ruiz says.

“THE ISLAND HAS A RECYCLING SYSTEM THAT STARTS WHEN EACH PERSON THROWS THEIR RUBBISH IN THE RIGHT CONTAINER.”

Light packaging goes through a “system of belts and machinery” that sort it by type and separate it into “cans, aluminium, steel, different types of plastic, Tetra Briks and films”. This is then compacted and sent to recycling plants on the mainland, as directed by non-profit recycling organisation Ecoembes.

Processing waste from the grey container – which comprises non-recyclable or incorrectly disposed material – involves “recovering” as much “valuable material” as possible – whatever is reusable. Organic waste is converted into bio-stabilised material and, together with the unrecyclable waste, is deposited in impermeable cells and buried in landfill.

The organic material from brown containers is used to produce 80% of the plant’s energy needs.
50% of the waste thrown into grey containers is organic material that cannot be used to make compost. 

Ruiz explains that a “very large” portion of what is thrown into the grey container – around 50% – is organic matter that cannot be composted because it has been in contact with other waste. But for the past year organic waste has had its own destination: the brown container. The organic matter collected from Ibiza’s brown containers is used to produce 80% of the plant’s energy needs and to make compost to be used as fertiliser, thus closing the cycle.

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