Money MattersNewssliderSpain

A new law grants clients of bars and restaurants the right to free tap water. Said water
should be contained not in plastic bottles but  in glassware


by Rose Maramba


Free water from the tap

The Ley 7/2022 de Residuos y Suelos Contaminados para una Economía Circular (Law on Wastes and Polluted Soil for a Circular Economy) came into effect on 10 April 2022. As a result, bars and restaurants – all eateries – in Spain are now obliged to serve water from the tap free of charge. Moreover, they should make unbottled water available in such a way that it becomes a regular feature of the eateries within the framework of the law’s Article 18:1e which foments “the reuse of containers”.

Put differently, the law grants clients the right to free tap water when drinking and dining out. Said water should not be contained in plastic bottles, but rather in glassware such as crystal pitchers or drinking glasses.

Take-make-waste linear economy versus circular economy

As for the circular economy, the European Union defines it as “a model of production and consumption which involves sharing, leasing, reusing, repairing, refurbishing and recycling existing materials and products as long as possible. . . [This] implies reducing waste to a minimum. When a product reaches the end of its life, its materials are kept within the economy wherever possible. These can be productively used again and again, thereby creating further value.”

A Machiavelian law

Less waste but also less profit for restaurants

The Ley 7/2022 is actually an exercise in Machiavelian unfair competition that’s good for the environment and for human health and bad for business. Chances are that a client who has a choice between free unbottled water and bottled water for which he will have to pay will choose the former. Thus, there will be less plastic to pollute the environment. But also less profit for the establishments. Similarly, the client will be less inclined than he used to be to order sugar-rich beverages that are bottled up in plastic containers for which his pocket and health will thank him.

Since this is about saving a planet asphyxiated with mountains of plastic wastes, the end justifies the means, surely?

The preamble of Ley 7/2022 says that “the first objective of any policy concerning wastes must be to reduce to the minimum the negative effects caused by the generation and administration of wastes on human health and the environment.”

What if the restaurant does not comply?

Should a restaurant or a bar refuse to serve tap water, for whatever reason, the client could ask for the Hoja de Reclamaciones (Complaints Form) and write a report. The Hoja is a public document and the establishments are under the obligation to make it available to clients on demand.

Hoja de Reclamaciones, Comunidad de Madrid

If the management refuses to produce the Hoja de Reclamaciones, or if the restaurant has no Hoja, the client, if she/he so wishes, may report the fact to the local police who will then take note of the infringement.

When the client fills in the Hoja de Reclamaciones what she is actually doing is filing a complaint with the Oficina Municipal de Información al Consumo (Municipal Office of Consumer Information). If the client is not satisfied with just resorting to the Hoja de Reclamaciones, she may go one step further and take her complaint personally to the Dirección General de Consumo (Consumer General Management) of the Autonomous Community where the restaurant is located.

A proven infringement will result in an administrative penalty for the establishment in question.


>Featured image (water pitcher and glass)/R Boed, CC BY2.0 via Flickr
>Quote mark/Oakus 53 via Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA4.0
>Tap water/Jenn Durfey, CC BY2.0 via Flickr
>Linear vs circular economy/Catherine Weetman, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons, based on PennineFoxhound’s Linear versus Circular economy. Vignette shading supplied.
>Crumpled plastic bottle/Jesse Wagstaff, CC BY2.0 via Flickr
>Hoja de Reclamaciones/Comunidad de Madrid (Per the Aviso Legal of the Comunidad website: “La Comunidad de Madrid permitirá la reutilización de todos los contenidos y datos difundidos por medio de este sitio, siempre que no se indique lo contrario, a condición de que no se altere el contenido de la información, no se modifique o desnaturalice el sentido de la información, se mencione la fuente, se indique la fecha de extracción o uso de la información, y no se pueda deducir que la Comunidad de Madrid patrocina o apoya la actividad en la que se reutiliza la información.”)