Spain claims to be one of the countries with the highest life expectancy in the world. So much so that, according to the most recent data, our country ranks third globally, only surpassed by Japan and Switzerland, despite the fall caused by the ravages of the covid. In total, 19.8% of the population is over 65 years of age or, in other words, more than nine million people are over that age, as indicated by figures from the Statistics National Institute (INE).
The potential of this demographic group does not stop growing and is increasingly taken into account by different sectors, industries and activities, to the point of talking about Silver economy —Or Silver Economy—, alluding to the color worn by the hair of the elderly. Their experience, purchasing power and high population numbers make veterans a social group with a growing influence on decision-making, even those that concern the preservation of nature.
Aware of these possibilities, some environmental organizations have begun to take advantage of this added value to raise awareness of the need to preserve the natural environment. One of them is Ecoembes, which launched the program in 2017 Third in age, first to recycle, whose objective is that the most hardened group in society becomes an ambassador of the fundamental process of waste separation. With the recent celebration of the Day of the Elderly, the entity has taken stock of a project that is obtaining positive results.
In total, more than 350,000 people have participated so far in the initiative, thanks to its implementation in 264 day centers and residences in five autonomous communities. The activities and dynamics developed range from intergenerational encounters, to recreational exercises, workshops or scheduled outings, always in order to bring recycling closer, while empowering people in terms of responsible consumption and circular economy also in old age.
Recycling in the first person
“It all started with a very practical presentation that they made from Ecoembes to raise awareness about this matter,” recalls Ana María Gracia, director of Hogar Valdefierro de Zaragoza. “In addition to exposing the general concepts and detailing how to proceed on a day-to-day basis, they also provided us with posters and specific bins to carry out the separation of waste in our facilities.” From their point of view, this commitment of the elderly is “fundamental” because “the information is transmitted as equals and, in fact, they are the ones who inquire, tell curiosities about recycling, advise and solve their own doubts ”, he clarifies.
Ana María de la Concepción and Joaquín Mata are two users of the Centro Zona Sur de Logroño who have become authentic ambassadors on the subject. “First they taught us to recycle correctly and then we were the ones who passed it on to the youngest,” they say. Joaquín admits to having been “very surprised” in the visit they made to a waste sorting plant: “It caught my attention to see how each type of waste goes to a different place; This made me put the batteries to me and now I am involved so much that even my children are impressed, ”he confesses. For her part, Ana María, underlines that she does it “for the environment” and admits that climate change is already a reality: “Now the seasons of the year are not so clear. Before, fall was fall and summer was summer. It is not like that anymore ”, he laments.
The degree of user involvement is very high. “In our case, the participation amounts to 76.5% of the inmates. Only those with greater difficulties and limitations have not been able to participate ”, specifies Adelina Vegas, director of the San Pancracio de Carreño residence in Asturias, who also welcomes the arrival of this program because it was a“ very interesting ”content during the isolation caused by the pandemic. Some seniors from this center point out that “in the past, decades ago, we did not waste anything in the houses” and do not give credit “to how, at present, we are ending the planet.” Adelina points out that “they take their youthful days as a reference, since there was no culture of use and disposal” and that is why “they are alarmed when they see the waste we generate today.”
From Ecoembes they are satisfied with the result of the program, despite the limitations derived from the pandemic. “The culture of recycling and the environment is inclusive, so we wanted to bring it closer to the elderly, designing proposals focused on active aging, participation and, above all, intergenerational conversation,” explains Begoña de Benito, director of External Relations and Ecoembes CSR. In this sense, the organization will continue to develop this program to expand the good data presented by Spain: according to the entity, in 2020 almost one and a half million tons of packaging were recycled, which made it possible to avoid the emission of 1.67 million tons of CO2 to the atmosphere.