View of Urbaser recycling plant Casares

What We Learned Visiting the Local Recycling Plant – Part 2 – by Melissa Vaughn

Following on from Part 1, in this section we dive more deeply into the main areas of advice we were given about how to minimize household waste, as well as exactly what can be recycled and where various items should go:

Here are the most important eco-friendly points that we learned during our trip.

  • We all need to look at REDUCING our use of consumables (so that waste bins fill up more slowly), REUSE what you can (to maximize product life), and RECYCLE the rest (so it can be returned into the system in a new form, where possible).
  • Urbaser has some pointers for us in its documentary video: write on both sides of jotter paper, switch off lights when not in use, take a shower instead of a bath, switch off taps and stop them from dripping water when they are off, don’t treat the w.c. as if it were a waste bin (only flush toilet paper – nothing else!), buy products in family-sized containers, only buy what is necessary and justified, use public transport, maximize natural light in the home, rather than switching a light on, encourage friends and family to do the same.
  • Please be mindful of which street bin is allocated to which designated item for recycling. If you are unsure which Spanish street-container the item should go in – don’t guess – put it into the large ‘general’ bins that normally have a lid you raise up by hand or by using a foot pedal.
  • Recycling items is vital to safeguard our planet’s resources and YES, the government really DO recycle your used items! Some people believe it all ends up in landfill, no matter what, so separating items for recycling is a waste of time. This is utterly false and was proved to us at the plant.

Here is a breakdown of what you can put into each container:


Paper and cardboard goes in the BLUE AND GREY CONTAINER with the high, narrow slot marked PAPEL. Put old newspapers, magazines, cardboard boxes in here. NO EMPTY MILK/JUICE CARTONS should go into the ‘Papel’ paper recycling – they are classed as ‘TetraPaks’ and must go in the Yellow bin! Please disassemble cardboard boxes before feeding them through the slot. It is really important that only paper and cardboard go into this container so please do not bag up your paper in a plastic carrier bag and throw that into the container! If a dirty ‘foreign’ item like some old eggs, plate leftovers, milk or oil is misplaced into this paper recycling container, it can stain and contaminate the contents of the container RUINING THE ENTIRE LOAD!

NO DIRTY PAPER! Please remember that things like used tissues, used kitchen paper and cardboard boxes that are dirty with earth, oil, sand etc. should NOT be placed into the Papel paper recycling. Only clean paper and cardboard is acceptable in the Papel container. Put used and dirty paper products into the standard general bin (flip top or push pedal kind). This includes used items like: paper handkerchiefs, kitchen roll, napkins (serviettes), tracing paper, plastic paper. None of these are recyclable

WRAPPING PAPER RECYCLING – At times such as Christmas, in terms of recycling wrapping paper – you can do a quick test to see if wrapping paper you are about to put into the paper recycling is indeed recyclable: take the discarded wrap and scrunch it into a ball. If it stays in a ball it is paper and can go in paper recycling. If, after you scrunch the wrapping into a tight ball in your hand, it unravels, falling back into shape then it is plastic coated or has plastic in it and it CANNOT go into the paper recycling!


Generally, this is a GREEN, ROUND-TOPPED CONTAINER WITH A SMALL OPENING UP HIGH. Glass is a commodity that can be infinitely recycled – your used glass items can be melted down and reprocessed, again and again. Manilva has received an award for being one of the top-most performing municipalities with a glass recycling average of higher than normal. So the message is getting out there! Good news…  HOWEVER, it is important to remember that, in Spanish the words: ‘cristal’ and ‘vidrio’ mean different things, however in English we just use the word ‘glass’ and not all ‘glass’ is equal! Vidrio can be processed. Cristal cannot! It may look the same to our eyes but these are different things. If you have a pane of glass (cristal) you are replacing in your house, then the old one can NOT go into glass recycling, nor can a cracked mirror (also cristal) etc.

YES, PLEASE RECYCLE: used items such as old jam jars, jars that contained legumes, vegetables etc. or glass containers from desserts/yoghurts and so on, these can be recycled. As a lot of water is used in the cleaning process, please DO rinse your glass items out before you pop them into the glass recycling bin.

REMOVE THE LID AND RECYCLE THAT TOO! Urbaser are very grateful to those people who toss the lid of the glass jar into the yellow recycling bin, just before you pop the glass section into the glass recycling container. In other words, take your used jam jar to the rounded green recycling container, take the top off, throw the top into the yellow bin, and pop the glass jar into the small round hole on the glass recycling container. This is very helpful to the process.


Plastic recycling. YELLOW PLASTIC CONTAINER. Here’s an encouraging statistic: on average, over 80% of the materials correctly deposited inside a yellow plastic recycling container are able to be recycled by the Urbaser plant!

Yellow containers are for used tin cans, metal, plastic and drinks containers. Plastics come in all different grades, types and weights from clingfilm (not recyclable at all, never decomposes and releases methane in landfill so PLEASE don’t buy it!) right through to used bleach bottles which can be processed into man-made yarn from which warm scarves can be knitted!

Into the yellow bin we can put empty: tetra-briks (the square containers typically containing UHT milk, soup, fruit juice or stock liquid for example) including the plastic cap, used water bottles, containers that had cleaning products such as window cleaning pump action sprays.

Used aerosol cans should be recycled in the yellow container, but NOT if they have the square ‘flame’ symbol on the back in red/orange.

Aluminium foil that has been used should be kept aside until you can crush enough of it all together in your hand to form a ball that is the size of a tennis ball. Then place it into the yellow recycling bin.

If items are very dirty – for example you found a plastic bottle washed up on the beach and it’s half full of sand or coated in tar, dirt, sand, etc. please DON’T put it into the yellow container. Items that are very dirty ‘infect’ the other container contents and render everything that has been touched by the dirt ‘unusable’.  Put soiled or very sandy cans, bottles and tetra packs into the ‘normal’, general rubbish bin. It does not matter if you squash your plastic bottles down or not, they are still recyclable in any form except if they are soiled or dirty.

More than just plastic goes into the yellow container! Bread bags that are half paper and half plastic can go in. As well as plastics these bins are also designed for taking drink cans such as Coke cans, cans that had fish or vegetables in them, for example.

Aluminium trays from things like bake-at-home garlic breads can also be put in. Please DO rinse out metal containers before putting them into the recycling.


Unwanted items such as clothing, shoes, sheets, curtains and toys can go into the tall, purple, square-sided recycling container with the pull-down compartment at head height. Donated items received are then either cleaned and donated to the needy, or recycled. As many modern materials are not compostable because they contain man-made fibres as well as natural ones, or they are entirely man made they will never decompose but will sit in land-fill leaching toxins.

The fashion industry represents the second-most polluting industry in the world, after the petrochemical industry. PLEASE recycle unwanted items and do your best to make use of second hand clothes stores, vintage markets, e-bay and so on, to purchase clothing and fashion items, wherever possible because there is a cost behind each dress, pair of jeans, shirt, and sock that goes unnoticed by most people: the cost to the environment. According to figures from the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), it takes 3,781 liters of water to make a pair of jeans, from the production of the cotton to the delivery of the final product to the store. That equates to the emission of around 33.4 kilograms of carbon equivalent, perhaps half the weight of an adult female!


Used cooking oil, when cold, can be decanted at home into plastic bottles, pop the top on the bottle and drop it into the orange recycling containers marked ACEITE. Disposing in this way stops the oil clogging pipes and polluting fresh water. Never put engine oil from vehicles into these containers! Used cooking oil can be transformed into soap or even biodiesel for vehicle fuel.


Used batteries contain heavy metals which are toxic to soil and water as they degrade.
They MUST be separated from normal rubbish – please don’t ever throw used batteries into the general rubbish! They are only recyclable when deposited into a used battery container, such as those found in major supermarkets and hardware stores.


As in many countries, fly-tipping is a big problem in Spain. But it should not be, because dumping large items at your local Punto Limpio “Clean point” should have no cost attached. This is a local council designated area where big, bulky or potentially toxic items can be dumped and there is one near Estepona Industrial Park.

Small electrical domestic appliances. In terms of smaller items: a steam iron that no longer works, a hair styler that is broken, a laptop that no longer works, these can be taken to the Tourist Office in Duquesa Port. It faces the taxi rank and the mini supermarket. Go inside and turn left. Behind the door is a tall green bin into which you can place small household electrical items for disposal. We were assured that in as many cases as possible these items will be taken apart so that parts can potentially be re-used. The ‘Edificio Multi-Usos’ in Sabinillas next to the Policia Local also has a box to deposit broken electrical household items. For things such as furniture, chairs, shelving etc. your local bins will have a notice on them telling you on which night you should place bulky items, once a week, so that they are collected early the following morning.

And finally…

Here are 12 good habits for reducing waste in your home:

  • Opt for reusable shopping bags
  • Put a “No Junk Mail” sticker on your letterbox
  • Avoid food waste
  • Buy in bulk or in large-size packaging
  • Buy eco-rechargeable or refillable products
  • Drink tap water or filter it, do not buy bottled water
  • Use rechargeable batteries
  • Restrict printer usage
  • Start composting
  • Donate old clothing, shoes and toys – buy vintage/second hand clothes
  • Borrow or hire tools rather than buy them
  • Repair goods and appliances rather than throw them out.

If you are interested in finding out more about zero waste, plastic-free and eco-friendly living locally, you can go to:

Eco Passion webpage:

Eco Passion Facebook page:

Eco Passion Facebook group ‘Passion for Plastic-free Living’:

Eco Passion on Instagram:

Eco Passion on Twitter:

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