Introduction to Waste

Waste can be simply defined as unwanted or useless materials.

Litter refers to waste disposed of in an improper manner.


Waste attracts rodents and insects which harbour gastrointestinal parasites, yellow fever, worms, the plague and other conditions for humans. Exposure to hazardous wastes, particularly when they are burned, can cause various other diseases including cancers. Waste can contaminate surface water, groundwater, soil, and air which causes more problems for humans, other species, and ecosystems. Waste treatment and disposal produces significant green house gas emissions, notably methane, which are contributing significantly to global climate change.

The Waste Management Strategy for Gibraltar focuses on the most sustainable and self-sufficient methods of handling and end disposal of our waste streams. This is governed to a certain extent by EU policy legislation. EU policy on waste is focusing on a shift from landfill to recycling. Waste minimisation has been the preferred method for waste treatment locally.

Government policy on waste has, to date, aimed at waste reduction, recycling and sustainable end disposal. The recycling of two specific waste streams, glass and tins, has been underway since 2008. Since the end of 2012 the introduction of two additional waste streams have come into effect. These are the recycling of paper and plastics, including tetra boxes. One very important point which needs to be realised is that recycling of waste is not new to Gibraltar. The recycling of different types of waste occurs through our current waste disposal methods. The landfill site in Los Barrios, which receives Gibraltar's domestic waste, has a sorting and recycling process for the waste it receives. Our waste is therefore being recycled to some extent but not in Gibraltar.  In addition to this, other waste streams separated and sent for recycling include:

  • Waste oil: partially recycled/regenerated at North Mole Sullage Plant (SLOP Oil Reception & Treatment Ltd (SORT))
  • Batteries: (i) car batteries collected by scrap metal dealers and sent to Spain where they join a recycling stream, and (ii) small recyclable batteries (those containing nickel and cadmium) collected by the Environmental Agency from fixed collection points for future recycling abroad.
  • End of life vehicles: currently taken to Spain to join a recycling stream.
  • Metals: sent as sorted scrap to Spain to join a recycling stream.
  • Wooden pallets: Generally returned to suppliers for re-use.
  • Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE): currently sent to authorised treatment plants in Spain for reuse and recycling.


The Waste Framework Directive sets out a broad framework for waste management policy and legislation in the European Union (EU). The principle objectives are:

  • The duty to manage waste without harming the environment or endangering human health
  • The objective of moving waste up the hierarchy from disposal to recovery, recycling, reuse and ideally waste reduction
  • The requirement for Member States to have a permitting system (licensing in Gibraltar) for waste management activities, with exemptions available for activities that pose less risk to the environment
  • Regulation and inspection of waste facilities
  • The "polluter pays" principle applied to costs of waste management
  • Duty of Care
  • Proximity principle, so waste is disposed of within the state of origin or in the nearest disposal facility in the adjoining state (as in the case of Gibraltar)
  • Self sufficiency principle, to become self-sufficient in waste disposal as well as in the recovery of waste and to enable Member States to move towards that aim individually, taking into account geographical circumstances or the need for specialised installations for certain types of waste.
  • A National Waste Management Plan: Article 7 of the Directive requires competent authorities to draw up waste management plans which shall relate in particular to:
    • The type, quantity and origin of waste to be recovered or disposed of,
    • General technical requirements,
    • Any special arrangements for particular wastes,
    • Suitable disposal sites or installations.