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Spain is working on new legislation that establishes the criteria to determine when plastic waste subjected to mechanical treatments and destined for the manufacture of plastic products ceases to be a waste and becomes a product. This law (22/2011) applies to thermoplastics that can melt when heated and harden when cooled, these characteristics being reversible. The law does not consider thermosets - in other words, plastics that once heated and then cooled cannot remelt or change shape.

The recycled plastic achieves the condition of a product when: it meets the technical requirements of the production industry; it complies with current legislation and technical standards applicable to products; and it does not produce adverse impacts on the environment or on human health.

Two important remarks must be made. Firstly, this end-product condition cannot be recognized outside of Spain without the prior agreement of the country to which the product is destined. Without this prior notification, the recycled plastic will be considered as waste and will be subject to Regulation (EC) No 1013/2006 of the European Parliament and of the Council of June 14 2006 on shipments of waste. Secondly, the law is making special provisions for recycled plastics to be used in the manufacture of materials that will come into contact with food.

The purpose of this regulation is to allow the use of plastic waste as a product when it has been subjected to mechanical treatments in certain production cycles, thus promoting the circular economy. The law will open up a new range of possibilities for plastics recycling by helping recyclers to be more price-competitive, to increase their client portfolio, and to cut transport costs and paperwork. It will also reduce the volume of plastics that is either fly-tipped or landfilled.

This law will set a precedent in Europe by identifying what requirements need to be fulfilled by facilities that shred plastic for their output fractions to be considered a product rather than a waste.