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25/05/2022

Luis Palomino: “If we turn the current crisis into an opportunity, we can make great progress in terms of the environment and the circular economy”

Luis Palomino, an agricultural engineer from the Polytechnic University of Madrid and master’s degree in Environmental Engineering and Management from the School of Industrial Organisation, has been secretary general of the Association of Waste and Special Resources Management Companies (Asegre) for 15 years. The association’s 41 members include companies such as FCC, Ferrovial, Suez and Veolia, which manage five million tonnes of industrial waste a year.

Luis Palomino, an agricultural engineer from the Polytechnic University of Madrid and master’s degree in Environmental Engineering and Management from the School of Industrial Organisation, has been secretary general of the Association of Waste and Special Resources Management Companies (Asegre) for 15 years. The association’s 41 members include companies such as FCC, Ferrovial, Suez and Veolia, which manage five million tonnes of industrial waste a year.
Palomino chairs the circular economy working committee of Expoquimia, Eurosurfas and Equiplast, the sector’s leading trade fair events that will take place from 30 May to 2 June 2023.
Sustainability, circular economy, climate emergency… these are terms that have been part of our vocabulary for decades… but are they just words or is there more to them?
They are much more than words, especially in our context, as there are specific EU action plans such as “A new Circular Economy Action Plan for a cleaner and more competitive Europe” from 2020, as well as the European Green Pact and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. All of them entail targets and regulations that can create quality green jobs, contribute to the growth of the environmental industry and transform waste into high quality secondary resources that are integrated into an efficient secondary raw materials market.
As secretary general of Asegre, what is your assessment of the situation in our country in this area?
There is a lot of work to be done if we want to improve the regulation of industrial and hazardous waste management. We believe that the new waste law is a positive step because, from now on, the initial producer or holder of the waste will be responsible for it and will have to ensure adequate final treatment. It is a change of model that can be a way to eradicate bad practices, achieve greater traceability of the waste and opt for the best techniques and treatments to achieve a higher quality of recycled materials.
What is the sector’s agenda for the coming years and what are your main concerns?
One of our priorities is to achieve greater harmonisation between the different environmental regulations that exist in our country so that the sector gains in competitiveness and efficiency. If this happens, management will be of increasingly higher quality, so that environmental and health impacts are reduced, as much material and energy as possible is extracted from waste, and greenhouse gas emissions are avoided thanks to the reuse and recycling of waste.
On the other hand, we are concerned about how the taxation of landfill will be implemented. It should be borne in mind that there is industrial and hazardous waste that cannot be recycled and needs to be managed safely before it is landfilled. It should also be further emphasised that, in addition to recovery and recycling, energy recovery from waste also contributes to climate change mitigation and the circular economy because it significantly avoids CO2 emissions by converting waste into energy to produce heat, steam and electricity.
In addition, it can effectively replace fossil fuels as a low-carbon alternative and secondary raw materials, such as metals and aggregates, are recovered and can be used in new products and processes.
What do you think is needed to further implement the concept of circularity in our industry?
European legislation is increasingly focusing on the development of the circular economy. One of the aspects where further development is expected is in the design of products, since it is at this stage that the manufacturer’s decisions can have the greatest impact on their life cycle.
That is why I consider it a major breakthrough that the world’s leading funds are already guided by environmental, social and governance criteria when investing. It is also important that industry has a greater responsibility as a producer of waste. We hope that with the new waste law they will opt for the best available treatments, as these are the ones that guarantee to close the circle.
What do you think is needed to achieve greater implementation of the circularity concept in our industry?
European legislation is increasingly influencing the development of the circular economy. One of the aspects where further development is expected is in the design of products, as it is at this stage that the manufacturer’s decisions can have the greatest impact on their life cycle.
That is why I consider it a major breakthrough that the world’s leading funds are already guided by environmental, social and governance criteria when investing. It is also important that industry has a greater responsibility as a producer of waste. We hope that with the new waste law they will opt for the best available treatments, as these are the ones that guarantee to close the circle.
Is the implementation of a new regulatory framework sufficient to promote circularity?
It is a very important step, but it must be accompanied by investment and education. In this sense, it would be necessary to develop information campaigns similar to those that have been carried out with citizens in recent decades but aimed at industry. As waste producers, they should be made more aware of their obligations and of all the steps they must follow in the waste management chain.
In this sense, is there a need for greater collaboration between administrations and companies?
The current challenges are of such magnitude that it is essential that public affairs are managed through public-private collaboration. It would be impossible to do this separately. To this end, it would be necessary for the institutions to listen more carefully to the environmental industry before launching their plans and legislation, as it is the industry that knows the current problems best on the ground and tends to have a less fragmented vision than the administrations that have environmental powers in Spain.
How can Expoquimia, Eurosurfas or Equiplast collaborate with the sector in order to materialise their action plan?
They are places for meeting, dissemination and understanding. They can play a very important role in publicising the rights and obligations of the industry and generate the necessary synergies so that the country can reindustrialise and become more competitive.
Finally, what future scenario do you envisage in this area?
If we turn the current crisis of high energy and raw material costs into an opportunity, we can make great progress in terms of the environment and the circularity of the economy, as happened with the health crisis in the field of digitalisation.
Barcelona, May 2022
Edu Pérez Moya
93 233 21 66
eperezm@firabarcelona.com