Zero Waste Europe is happy to introduce the blog series “Meet our members”. Through this series of monthly interviews, we want to give you a chance to get to know our members and the work they are doing.
Meet Ana Gutiérrez Dewar
from Retorna, Spain
Hi Ana, can you give us a brief introduction to Retorna’s focus?
Retorna is an umbrella organization, including nearly 20 different members, from environmental and marine NGO´s to trade unions, family organizations and a recovery and recycling association. It was born nearly ten years ago, when NGOs and recycling companies met up to analyze why reuse practices in Spain had practically disappeared (except for the HORECA channel) and why the material recovered for recycling was so limited and of such a poor quality compared to other countries.
Retorna’s main objective is to recover the habit of returning bottles and cans to stores so they can be refilled or recycled, avoiding 30 million containers being abandoned in the environment each day. This way, more than 90% quality recycling can be achieved, contributing to zero waste and Circular Economy objectives.
Retorna works closely with its members and other organizations to promote the implementation of measures to reduce marine litter and promote Zero Waste and reuse alternatives.
Giving value to used materials will guarantee their reuse or recycling and avoid them littering our environment.
How long have you been in the field and what got you into (Zero) Waste?
I have always worked in the field of waste prevention and resource efficiency. In the 90’s, I moved from Madrid to Washington DC and worked with USPirg, which at the time was campaigning for the Clean Air Act. For a year, I lived on a small sailing boat on the Chesapeake Lake. My work and living in very few square meters – which meant buying and using only the minimum indispensable – and thoroughly enjoying all of it, definitely got me into Zero Waste.
Back in Madrid I stayed in the field, first as director of several environmental publications, and now in Retorna. It is rewarding to see the movement grow and become what it is at present.
What is your current role in your organisation?
We are a small team and we all take part in the campaigns and projects, but personally, I manage the policy and advocacy areas. In this respect, our team works with many different stakeholders, including Governments at local, regional, state and EU levels, to increase awareness and to ensure the adption and respect of ambitious legislation in line with our mission and vision.
Tell us more about one ongoing campaign/activity you’re working on?
With the renew of governments in most regions in Spain, and soon also at state level, Retorna will work to speed up the ambitious transposition of the Sigle Use of Plastic Directive. We will also work on the implementation of deposit return projects in those regions which have already a specific legislation on that, such as the Balearic Islands and Navarra, as well as remaining involved at an international level working together with other organizations and NGOs.
If there was one thing that you would like your organisation to be known for, what would it be?
In Retorna, we would be very proud if people living or visiting Spain would soon be able to buy drinks in refillable bottles without finding cans, cartons or plastic bottles littered on beaches, fields or streets.
How would you describe the growth of the Zero Waste movement in your country?
The Zero Waste movement started in Catalunya and the Basque country decades ago, but recently it has taken off with new strength, with a new organization within Zero Waste Europe, and Zero Waste Alliance with almost a dozen members at state and regional levels.
You can find more about Retorna and their work here.