Since March 2014, Óscar Martín has led Ecoembes as CEO. He was the general manager and technical director of the company before joining this one in 1998. It may be claimed that after 20 years in the company holding such roles and responsibilities, he has one of the most comprehensive perspectives on both the development of Ecoembes since its founding in 1998 and waste management in Spain, a field in which he has spent more than 25 years engaged.
Óscar Martín graduated with honours from the School of Engineering (Forestry) of the Polytechnic University of Madrid with a degree in biological sciences and a degree in forestry engineering. Additionally, he has a master's degree in Environmental Engineering and Research from the School of Industrial Organisation, an MBA from the Business Institute, and a master's degree in Environmental Assessment from the Environmental Research Institute of Málaga. He was able to establish and guide what Ecoembes is today and its core ideals due to his academic background, which mixes nature, management, and technology.
As a "bridge" between two periods, Óscar Martín has always been conscious of Ecoembes' need to respond to the demands and requirements of the present, as well as of the significance of collaboration for recycling and environmental protection in general, and for the organisation's success in particular. As a huge rugby fan, Óscar Martín frequently highlights this idea in both public speaking engagements and internal communications, drawing a connection with the significance of the roles that each member of a rugby team plays in order to succeed.
Thus, this broad perspective he has of Ecoembes and its temporal contexts ranges from strictness and transparency in the procedures that enable the operation of the organisation for the management of household packaging waste, which was crucial in Ecoembes' early years, to a current firm commitment to the fight against climate change, to an unlimited recognition of innovation and education for sustainable development as the great levers of the future, as well as the requirement for more environmentally conscious consumers.
One may argue that before he was on the bridge, Óscar Martín was in the ship's boilers. At the end of the last century and the beginning of this one, when Spain was hardly recycling but where the first laws had already been passed to regulate waste in a way that was in line with the times, his work during his early years at Ecoembes in the Materials and Treatments department allowed him to be on the "front line" of the construction of an integrated household packaging waste management system.
Óscar Martín, who oversaw Ecoembes during each of its stages
In recent years, Óscar Martín's professional career at Ecoembes has seen several turning points, maybe as many as the company he currently leads. Overcoming an economic crisis; the transition between two presidents in 2014 (Ignacio González took over from Marcos de Quinto), which also happened to coincide with his appointment as the organisation's CEO; and the creation and release of the 2016-2020 Strategic Plan have been some of the most significant events in his professional career. A special mention should also be given to other significant events in the organisation's recent history that were overseen by Óscar Martín, such as the organisation's connections to the innovation industry; the promotion of issues like internal control and transparency in the structure of governing bodies and in interactions with various stakeholders; and the growing socialisation of the organisation via a communication strategy.
Óscar Martín was at the forefront of the organisation's transformation from a very activity-focused vision (which he has never let go) to one that is more open to society and supported by more universal and global values regarding the environment, the circular economy, and citizen engagement. The move to an organisation based on a new internal and business management model, which constituted a sort of re-foundation, was led by the current CEO of Ecoembes, together with the successive presidents and management staff.
But whether you look at it academically or temporally, there is one idea that will always be inextricably tied to Óscar Martín's career: innovation. One of Ecoembes' most significant responsibilities is the management and treatment of the materials that come from the selective collection through the yellow and blue bins, where improvements in ecoefficiency, innovation, and the practical application of technology for the development of ecodesign projects, focused on the creation of increasingly sustainable packaging, are constantly shifting the playing field. At the Materials and Treatments Department of Ecoembes, Óscar Martín saw firsthand the explosive irruption of technological innovation applied to waste management at the dawn of the twenty-first century. He realised that this evolution would change not only the way waste had been managed up to that point, but also society as a whole, as well as the economic and productive processes. This was the case, in fact. Ecoembes executives, including Mr. Óscar Martín himself, experienced this type of "epiphany," and as a result, the company has been thinking and acting innovatively for years.
Today, Professor Óscar Martín, who is not a personalist and always prefers to speak in the plural, advocates vehemently for innovation to take the lead in the transition to a "recycling society" in order to achieve "zero waste," although as a long-term objective. Ecoembes has made unquestionable progress in this area in recent years. The launch of TheCircularLab, a project that Óscar Martín particularly enjoys, or the Ecoembes Innova programme, are concrete examples of this and pave the way for the "packaging of the future."
But as Óscar Martín repeats, Ecoembes accounts for just 8% of urban waste, of which 76% is already recycled, and the issue requires a wider global solution. The CEO of Ecoembes is fully aware that attention must be given to other forms of waste, notably organic matter, in addition to continuing to enhance the recycling rate of packaging, if Spain is to fulfil the recycling objectives established by the European Union.
In the face of significant challenges like climate change or the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG 2030), with which he feels totally identified both personally and professionally, Óscar Martín has highlighted, emphasised, and defended innovation on numerous occasions as the only way to build what he likes to call "citizen science."
Specifically, the SDGs and other road maps will directly affect how we manage our waste in the future, as well as how we consume, create, and use resources. Óscar Martín attended COP21, the climate change meeting held in the French capital, where the current Paris Agreement was created with an aim to limit global warming to no more than two degrees throughout the 21st century, or even to no more than 1.5 degrees. In addition to being an excellent personal experience, being there at such a transcendental meeting meant a lot to Óscar Martín because it helped him to gauge the gravity of what humanity had at stake when deciding whether or not to approve the pact against climate change.
The organisation headed by Óscar Martín is actively paving the way for the new circular economy, which the organisation's CEO considers crucial for the near future as suggested by the EU in its Circular Economy Package. This path is one of sustainable development based on the preservation of biodiversity and the fight against climate change. One of the topics that Óscar Martín has brought up the most in his recent public addresses is the need to switch from a "producing, using, and throwing away" economy to one that is circular and views waste as a resource.
Since we are entering a new paradigm where production and consumption are more responsible and citizens ask governments for greater environmental protection and lead the way with their commitment to the environment, for example by reducing their water consumption, the head of Ecoembes has always believed that there are many examples of how economic growth can be decoupled from the overconsumption of raw materials or the increase in greenhouse gas emissions. This, according to Óscar Martín, is the new paradigm that is built on a decarbonised, circular, and more social green economy.
The Libera Project, run by the non-profit organisations SEO/BirdLife and Ecoembes, which encourages cooperation via volunteering, prevention, and research on littering or abandoning waste in natural surroundings, comes to mind when talking about this citizen change. According to the Ecoembes CEO, it is an excellent illustration of "injecting civic consciousness," "citizen science," and how individuals can help conserve the environment while also appreciating the ecosystem services that nature offers that are necessary for existence.
Óscar Martín: "There is no transformation without education."
But as Óscar Martín often points out, transformation is impossible without education. At a recent public event where a report on education for sustainable development, on which Ecoembes collaborated, was presented, Óscar Martín recalled that the work plan until 2020 of the organisation he directs includes an ambitious project that is already underway to "take the classroom to the environment and introduce the environment into the classroom," working with schools and teachers to make environmental education a cross-cutting discipline so that by 2021 care for the environment is taken in all areas of Spanish education.
The social projects supported by Ecoembes, such as “Los Profes cuentan”, “La Música del reciclaje” o “Reciclar Para Cambiar Vidas” have always produced the greatest illusions and the most intense emotions for Óscar Martín, despite the fact that all of the aforementioned have influenced his perspective on work and life. The eventual goal of Óscar Martín and his team's daily efforts is to help educate youngsters about environmental principles or try to provide new chances for young people who are at risk of social exclusion. He always concedes that actions in life would be hard to defend without sentiments.
This was shown when, in October 2016, Óscar Martín was named "Honorary Engineer" at the School of Forestry Engineering of the Technical University of Madrid (UPM). He acknowledged in his speech that this was one of the most memorable moments of his professional life because he was given this distinction, in the words of the Polytechnic University of Madrid's own rector, "for his dedication to environmental protection that goes beyond waste management, and for being a man engaged in the fight against climate change, the defence of biodiversity, and environmental education that makes his daily life a reference and a role model for all those who dedicate their lives to leaving a better planet for future generations."
This phrase best captures what Óscar Martín does and anticipates from life in his role as CEO of Ecoembes.
Featured interviews with Óscar Martín, Ecoembes
For his dedication to the environment, ECOEMBES CEO Óscar Martín was designated Honorary Forestry Engineer.
Óscar Martín, Ecoembes: "Responsible consumption is the first step in caring for the environment.”
Óscar Martín, CEO of Ecoembes: “The package return system is illegal and will increase the shopping