REVEALED: The Black Flag beaches in Spain you may want to avoid

If you like many in Spain this summer will be heading to the beach to swim or relax, be aware that there are 48 'playas' that have received Black Flags for not meeting the right health, cleanliness and environmental standards.

spain polluted beaches
The Mar Menor beaches in Murcia are notoriously some of the most polluted in Spain. (Photo by Jose Miguel FERNANDEZ / AFP)

Spain has around 7,500 kilometres of coastline and more than 3,000 beaches. Many of them are not only beautiful, but very well taken care of.

Recently we listed all of Spain’s 621 Blue Flag beaches for 2022, which were awarded the accolade for their hygiene, safety and accessibility standards, their provision of lifeguards and other positive features. 

READ ALSO: Where are Spain’s Blue Flag beaches?

Unfortunately, not all beaches in Spain are quite so well preserved.

Spanish environmental group Ecologists in Action ‘awards’ these beaches ‘Black Flags’, with the aim of drawing attention to stretches of the coastline that don’t make the grade.

Big no-nos include poor waste management, pollution, overcrowding from tourism, nearby building projects, port expansions, the accumulation of rubbish, coastal erosion, and their detrimental effects on biodiversity.

This means that all the beaches listed below are not necessarily polluted but may suffer from overcrowding or the authorities are not using environmentally friendly ways of keeping them clean.

After having analysed 8,000 kilometres of coastline around Spain, Ecologists in Action have denounced 48 coastal stretches in 2022, giving them Black Flag status.

Besides beaches, Black Flags are also awarded to port areas and river estuaries. 

Here are all the Black Flag beaches across the country that you should be aware of this summer. Ports, rivers and estuaries given the Black Flag status have also been listed for each province. 


  • Playa de La Antilla, Huelva for waste poor management
  • Ría de Huelva for contamination
  • El Palmar, Cádiz for contamination
  • Playa Mangueta, Cádiz for the illegal extraction of water
  • Barbate, Cádiz for contamination
  • The beaches of Málaga for poor waste management
  • Paraje Natural Acantilados de Maro-Cerro Gordo for contamination
  • Playa de La Charca-Salomar, Granada for poor waste management.
  • Playa de La Rábita, Granada for contamination.
  • Costa de Levante, Almería for poor waste management
  • Cuevas de Almanzora, Almería for contamination


  • Regasificadora de Xixón for poor waste management
  • Ria de Avilés for contamination

Balearic Islands

  • Alcúdia Port for poor waste management
  • Porto Colom for contamination

Basque Country

  • The River Nervión around the Guggenheim for poor waste management
  • The River Barbadun for contamination
  • Puerto de Mutriku for poor waste management
  • Monte Antondegi for contamination

Canary Islands

  • Playa del Charco de la Araña in Tenerife for poor waste management and contamination
  • Playa del Waikiki (La Goleta) in Fuertevenura for poor waste management
  • Municipal beaches of Yaiza in Lanzarote for contamination


  • The Cantabrian coast near caravan parks for poor waste management
  • Bajo Asón for contamination


  • Platja del Trabucador, Tarragona for poor waste management
  • Municipal beaches of Tarragona for contamination.
  • Beaches next to Barcelona airport for poor waste management
  • Barcelona port for contamination
  • Pineda d’en Gori, Girona for poor waste management
  • The small inlets in the Costa Brava for contamination only when there are boat parties known as abarlofarra


  • Municipal beaches of Vigo for poor waste management
  • Estuario de la Foz for contamination 
  • Ría de O Burgo for the dredging of sediments
  • Minas de San Finx for contamination 
  • Illa Pancha for poor waste management
  • Playa de Arealonga for contamination


  • Mar Menor for poor waste management and contamination
  • Bahía de Portmán and Sierra Minera for contamination


  • Beaches in the municipality of Calp for poor waste management
  • Cala Lanuza and Cala Baeza for contamination
  • Dunes at Playa de Tavernes de la Valldigna for overuse by tourists and festivals
  • Playa del Triador for poor waste management
  • Playa de Les Fonts for contamination

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You can now be fined €2,000 in Spain for leaving cardboard in the street

Two stiff fines handed out to Madrid residents who left cardboard boxes next to recycling bins rather than inside them have brought to attention a new Spain-wide law against leaving waste on the street.

You can now be fined €2,000 in Spain for leaving cardboard in the street

It’s not uncommon in Spain to see large cardboard boxes sitting on the street next to the bins, instead of inside them.

Whether it’s as a result of the contenedores de basura (bins) being full and the boxes not fitting through the slits, leaving cardboard by the side of the bin is something that most of us living in Spain have probably been guilty of at some point.

The alarming news is that if you commit this misdemeanour in Spain, you can now actually be fined for it.

A law was passed by the Spanish government in April 2022, but it is only now coming to light following two cases of people being fined for doing exactly this.

Article 108 of law 07/2022 states that “the abandonment, including littering, the dumping and uncontrolled management of any type of non-hazardous waste puts people’s health at serious risk or is causing serious damage or deterioration to the environment”, and it is therefore an offence.

Article 109 of the same law states that the fine for minor infractions can be up to €2,001, for serious infractions penalties range from €2,001 to €100,000 and for very serious offences penalties go from €100,000 to €3.5 million.

In late September 2022, a man in the Barajas neighbourhood of Madrid received a fine from the Madrid City Council, for “leaving a box outside the dumpster meant for the disposal of cardboard”. The city hall decided that he should pay €2,001.

This is the second fine that has occurred recently, with another woman being fined in Madrid’s Aravaca neighbourhood for leaving a large cardboard box outside the bins, which contained baby nappies she bought on the internet.

She was identified because her name and address were on a sticker on the outside of the box, but she has claimed that it wasn’t her who left the box by the side of the bin but rather one of the building’s concierges who was responsible for taking out the neighbours’ rubbish. 

There is no evidence that towns and cities in other regions in Spain are currently handing out such large fines to their citizens, but Spanish law states they are now at liberty to do so, and municipalities can also implement their own laws and fines relating to incorrect waste disposal. 

Madrid City Council has defended its actions pointing out that it has recently drawn up its own new law for the Cleaning of Public Spaces, Waste Management and Circular Economy, and that those who are fined can reduce the amount by 40 percent if they pay in the first 15 days after receiving the fine.

The aim of this is to have a cleaner city by implementing measures that “enable the reduction of waste generation to guarantee the protection of the environment and people’s health, and to promote a greater collective awareness,” the council said in a statement.

The draft bill is set to be approved in December and includes new penalties for offences such as leaving large cardboard boxes outside their corresponding bin, with proposed fines of up to €750 for not properly recycling bottles or other glass objects.

Madrid also plans to hand out €3,000 to revellers who don’t throw away bottles and other waste from botellones (outdoor drinking gatherings).

Between now and December, when the bill will be approved, citizens can put forward their arguments stating whether they believe the sanctions are too high and if they are justified before it is voted upon by the council.  

Madrid city mayor José Luis Martínez-Almeida said he was “surprised” by the high fines but explained that the final amounts will be enshrined in the new decree. He hasn’t indicated what will happen to those who have already been slapped with the higher €2,001 penalties.