Incinerator in Zubieta, Gipuzkoa, Spain

Zubieta is a rural-type neighbourhood of San Sebastian located 10 Km from the city. For the last years, the landfill capacity in the whole province has been close to filling. In 2006, Odon Elorza, the then mayor of Donostia, accepted a proposal from the Council and approved an incinerator to be built in Zubieta. This new project was processed with great urgency, diverting attention from other possible solutions (reuse, recycling, reduction of waste at source, etc.) and focusing on a calendar created by those who would build the incinerator. In 2008, the Council (controlled by the PNV party, the centre-right wing Basque nationalist party) invited tenders for the construction of the incinerator, but it was not assigned until 2011. The construction contract was granted to: FCC, Serbitzu Elkartea, Altuna y Uria and AE&E Innova. The decision of building an incinerator in Zubieta triggered strong popular opposition. A public campaign, demonstrations, flashmobs and even a popular referendum were organised to try to stop the project. Participation in the referendum was 62,6%, and there was only one vote in favour of the incinerator. The turning point of Zubieta incinerator project were the local and county elections of 2011. Bildu (a left wing Basque nationalist party) became the leading political force in Gipuzkoa. From that moment, the process related to the incinerator changed radically because Bildu opposed the Project. For instance, in the moment of approving the budget for 2012, Bildu agreed with PNV to establish a 6 months moratorium on the incinerator project to provide more time to the different social agents to reach a better solution. The Zubieta incinerator Project has caused a political storm in the Basque country. For instance, Juan Karlos Alduntzin, an environmental deputy who was positioned against the incinerator was forced to resign. The Straw that broke the camel’s back, however, was the realisation that the Project did not meet the environmental requirements from the Basque Environmental Department. In November 2013, the Zubieta incinerator Project was officially discarded. An agreement was made between the political institutions and the companies in charge of developing the Project in which the Basque public authorities will pay those companies compensation costs (8,190,000 euros).
Basic Data
NameIncinerator in Zubieta, Gipuzkoa, Spain
Accuracy of LocationMEDIUM regional level
Source of Conflict
Type of Conflict (1st level)Waste Management
Type of Conflict (2nd level)Incinerators
Specific CommoditiesDomestic municipal waste
Project Details and Actors
Project Details
261.000 tonnes of waste/year (from a total of 538,000 tonnes of waste/year) would be incinerated.
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Project Area (in hectares)7.8
Level of Investment (in USD)252,845,107
Type of PopulationSemi-urban
Potential Affected Population10,000
Start Date2006
Company Names or State EnterprisesFomento de Construcciones y Contratas (FCC) from Spain
Serbitzu Elkartea, Altuna y Uria from Spain
AE&E Inova from Switzerland
Relevant government actorsBasque regional government, San Sebastian Town Council, Consorcio de Residuos de Gipuzkoa
Environmental justice organisations and other supportersGuipuzkoa sin incineradora, Coordinadora de Plataformas contra la Incineración, Ekologistak Martxan, EH Bildu, Greenpeace, GAIA
The Conflict and the Mobilization
Intensity of Conflict (at highest level)MEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
When did the mobilization beginPREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups MobilizingLocal ejos
Local government/political parties
Social movements
Local scientists/professionals
Forms of MobilizationBlockades
Development of alternative proposals
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Public campaigns
Referendum other local consultations
Environmental ImpactsPotential: Air pollution, Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Global warming, Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Noise pollution, Soil contamination, Soil erosion, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Groundwater pollution or depletion
Health ImpactsPotential: Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…)
Socio-economic ImpactsPotential: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Loss of livelihood
Project StatusStopped
Pathways for conflict outcome / responseInstitutional changes
Strengthening of participation
Application of existing regulations
Project cancelled
Development of Alternatives- Reducing, recycling as much as possible and door to door collection of municipal solid waste.

- Design waste policies to go towards zero waste.
Do you consider this as a success?Yes
Why? Explain briefly.The incinerator project was cancelled and a door to door domestic waste collecting system has been developed in many surrounding towns.
Sources and Materials

de 19 de noviembre de 2008 sobre los residuos y por la que se derogan determinadas Directivas:
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Ley 22/2011, de 28 de julio, de residuos y suelos contaminados:
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Ley 5/2013, de 11 de junio, por la que se modifican la Ley 16/2002, de 1 de julio, de prevención y control integrados de la contaminación y la Ley 22/2011, de 28 de julio, de residuos y suelos contaminados:
[click to view]

LEY 3/1998, de 27 de febrero, general de protección del medio ambiente del País Vasco:
[click to view]

Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants:
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Web: Guipuzcoa sin incineradora:
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Newspaper article. Etxebarria, A. (14/11/2013). La incineradora es historia tras el acuerdo firmado con las empresas. Gara:
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Newspaper article. Orbazábal, M. (17/2/2008). La incineradora de Zubieta, en detalle. El Pais:
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Media Links

Youtube clip: ‘Game over. the story of the incinerator of Zubieta’
[click to view]

Youtube clip: El juego ha terminado. La historia de la incineradora de Zubieta:
[click to view]

Youtube clip: ‘Dancing for clean air’ flsh-mob:
[click to view]

Meta Information
ContributorAmaranta Herrero
Last update21/07/2016