How to Recycle in Spain

Like any responsible society, Spain has a well-developed system of recycling used materials like paper, plastic, or soda cans. You can find recycling bins, receptacles, and containers all over the country, from the biggest metropolises to the tiniest villages. However, these bins usually come in multicolored troupes of four, and unless you know the specific vocabulary surrounding, uh, waste, it can be a little confusing the first couple times you have to throw stuff away.

Paper, plastic, and trash bins in Madrid, Spain
Recycling bins in Madrid

Green: trash (residuos)

Recycling in Spain
(Source: Wikipedia)

Okay, I know this isn’t really recycling, but you always find green-colored bins for all your trash alongside the other recycling containers. Throw your trash bags in here. Often they’re labeled with residuos orgánicos (organic waste), but it means the same thing as basura (trash).

Blue: paper (papel)

Recycling in Spain
(Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Throw your loose paper, cardboard (cartón), newspapers, and magazines in here. Although this might seem like the most logical place to throw your cardboard milk boxes into, they’re actually supposed to go in…

Yellow: containers (envases)

Recycling in Spain
(Source: Wikimedia Commons)

The yellow bins take in the broadest selection of recyclables: everything from plastic bottles or containers, to soda cans and tin cans, too. Don’t forget that the envases ligeros category also includes the Tetra-Brik or brik: a thin, cardboard box-construction that is lined with plastic or foil to hold liquids like milk, orange juice, soup broth, or boxed wine.

Round & green: glass (vidrio)

Recycling in Spain
(Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Finally, throw your all your glass containers, broken cups, wine bottles, beer bottles, and empty jars here. These containers are usually round, igloo-shaped things and shouldn’t be confused with the square trash bins.

Miscellaneous

Recycling in Spain
(Source: Wikimedia Commons)

They’re not nearly as ubiquitous as the trash, paper, plastic, and glass containers you can find all over Spanish cities, but every so often you’ll come across metal bins for giving away clothes and shoes (recogida de ropa y calzado), used cooking oil in closed bottles (reciclado de aceite usado de cocina), and even batteries (pilas).

Clear as mud? Ever accidentally thrown glass in the plastic container like me? Comment below!

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