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Waste Disposal

Spain - Waste Disposal


Refuse collection in Spain varies according to the region that you are in. In most urban areas, houses do not have individual bins but there are large communal bins placed around the area for you to use. There are no restrictions on the type of item that can be placed in these bins, although bulky objects may not fit. If the bins are full it is acceptable to place sealed bags beside them. All rubbish has to be in sealed bags and the bins are emptied every night although not on public holidays or Sundays.

In some areas there are specific times for putting out the rubbish. In many places this is the evening time. If you have large household items that you need to get rid of then you need to contact your local town hall. They will advise you on how and when these items can be collected, although if you are able to transport them yourself then there are recycling points for doing so.

There are hefty fines for those who are caught fly-tipping, with some areas prepared to impose fines of up to €1500 on those who are caught leaving rubbish in the wrong place. As with the UK, residents of Spain pay taxes to cover the cost of refuse collection. This is known as ‘Basura’ and is paid annually to an agency known as SUMA. There is a SUMA office in all towns and the amount paid is decided by the town hall. This Spanish version of council tax is usually far lower than residents would pay in the UK.

It is also common for the contractors who empty the bins to clean them on a regular basis. This prevents any odours from the bins and there are no problems with vermin due to a build-up of rubbish.

Recycling is not yet common in Spain although there are some facilities for this. In some areas there are barrel-style bins placed on the street for items which can be recycled such as paper, glass and plastic. Information on recycling is being made available all the time to raise awareness of the environmental issues. Garden waste will normally have its own bins and these will also be strategically placed around the area.

Most homes in urban areas are connected to a mains sewerage system but there are a vast number of homes in rural and more remote parts of the country which cannot be connected to the mains system. As an alternative these use either a septic tank or a cesspit. In an older property these are normally constructed from concrete, although those for modern properties are normally made from fibreglass. Those who are buying an older property should be aware that with new EU guidelines coming into force in the next few years, it may be necessary to replace the existing system with a modern one.

A septic tank will act as a small sewage treatment works, with two tanks and bacteria added to break down the waste. This type of tank will need to be emptied on an annual basis to remove the sludge (already treated with the bacteria) from the bottom of the tank. In contrast the cesspit simply acts as a holding tank and the waste is not treated in any way. This type of tank will need to be emptied at least twice a year.

In recent years Spain has invested a great deal in sewage treatment works but as many properties cannot make use of these it is the responsibility of the homeowner to ensure that the system in place is well-maintained. The cost of having the tanks emptied is also the responsibility of the home owner.

It is estimated that around one third of the population of Spain is not connected to the mains sewerage system. It is a good idea to check the regulations in the local area as in some regions it is only permissible to have a septic tank and not a cesspit. If there are main drainage facilities you will not be permitted to opt out and have a septic tank. Some areas are still lacking a treatment facility but there are plans to construct new facilities where they are needed.


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