Circular economy

Urban waste in Italy, a gold mine worth €6.5 billion

Questo post è disponibile anche in: Italian

A report by Altheseys shows that paper recycling saves Italy 2 billion Euro per year. Good results also with plastic.

There’s a treasure in the trash: even better, a gold mine. Paper, glass, metals, plastic, and even organic material, if correctly recycled, allow Italy to save €6.5 billion on the import of raw materials from foreign countries every year. And there’s more: the use of the so-called SRM (Secondary Raw Materials) saves Italy €2 billion worth of energy, the equivalent of about 10% of all electricity consumption. The data comes from the WAS Annual Report 2016, a report elaborated by a think tank of waste operators and coordinated by the environmental consultancy company Althesys.

According to the report, the first place of the secondary raw materials ranking goes to the paper industry, which saves about €2 billion worth of raw material per year. In the field of plastic materials, waste recycling allows to save about €500 billion per year.

Although Italy still needs to overcome some normative and industrial obstacles that hinder the circular economy, the field of waste selection, recovery, and recycling is undeniably growing stronger.

“Today, Secondary Raw Materials play a strategic role in the Italian economy” reads the report. In the paper sector alone, recycled paper has doubled from 26% in 2000 to 47.7% in 2015. This allowed Italy to become a net exporter of paper pulp, a revolution in Italy’s historically dependent position.

The waste treatment industry overall has been growing constantly over the past few years: the first 76 top players touched a turnover of €9.7 billion, almost thrice as much as the turnover of Italian football (€3.6 billion). According to the WAS report, the most dynamic enterprises are specializing in the directions of waste selection and quality improvement. One of the main imperatives of the current waste treatment policies is the development of the phases that follow waste collection: several operators are slowly shifting their strategic focus to this part of the recycling chain, which is currently worth €2 billion.

73% of the operators in this segment of the recycling chain treat at least two types of recovered materials, in particular paper and plastic: 66% of the enterprises are active on both. 60% of operators are focused on metals, while 45% are active in the field of glass and wood. Finally, 46% are dedicated exclusively to urban waste, and 33% treat only special waste. 21% work with both types. The data suggests that the segment of selection and quality improvement is undergoing a slow but constant transformation, and undertaking the same consolidation and industrialization process that already took place in the collection and disposal sectors. “Both big and small operators are decisively shifting their focus to the circular economy business – said Alessandro Marangoni, CEO of Althesys, during the presentation of the 2016 report – Waste management enterprises are integrating each other along the value chain in the selection and quality increase of collected waste: this entails the double advantage of reducing the quantity of material to be treated and increasing its added value. The secondary raw material market, which nowadays often consists of global commodities, is going to develop in a strategic direction. In Italy, a significant development potential can be found in the field of urban organic waste (Forsu). This sector demonstrated good growth margins, especially in Southern Italy, where an estimated 2.3 billion tons of organic waste still escapes organized collection. The transformation of waste into first-generation raw materials and renewable energy with the production of biomethane is one of the most concrete challenges for the development of the circular economy”.

For further information, visit the part dedicated to the annual report on the Althesys website

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