Circular economy and energy transition, ‘a single challenge for the future’

The energy transition and the circular economy, often considered separately, are actually linked to each other, both decisive for making the impact of economic activities sustainable; they represent the two parallel ways to lead Italy to a perspective of positive and lasting development. This is what emerges from the conference ‘The role of the circular economy in European energy policy’ promoted by Conou, the National Consortium of Used Oils, and by Aiee, the Association of Italian Energy Economists, which took place today in Rome at the headquarters of the European Area. A discussion that brought together different voices from academics, economists, institutions and representatives of some of the main national environmental consortia, enlivening reflection on the beneficial impact and the need for the circular model in the energy transition process to combat the climate crisis .

Reducing the dispersion of waste, improving the recovery and recycling capacity of materials and increasing the sustainability of products are the strategic interventions to be put in place also to allow the reduction of energy requirements. In Italy the activities of the five Consortia that participated in the meeting, Conou, Ricrea, Co.Re.Ve, Erion, Ecopneus, represent as many virtuous examples of a circular economy achieved, of an environmentally effective and efficient management of waste that contributes also to reduce the use of fossil energy raw materials, with evident benefits in the mitigation of ‘global warming’ at an overall level as well as in energy independence for our country.

In 2021, as for years now, Conou has started regeneration over 98% of the used oil, with savings on oil imports of over 80 million euros; Again in 2021, Ricrea recycled 390,000 tonnes of steel packaging waste; Co.Re.Ve, recovered 2,182,858 tons of glass in 2021; Erion, with its activity has made it possible to save over 375 million kWh; In 2022, Ecopneus recovered 231,727 tons of out-of-life tyres.

As emerges, then, from the 2022 Report of the Circonomia Festival on the circular economy in Italy and in Europe, our country is the leader in the EU for circularity and efficiency in the use of resources. In particular, in 2021 our country recycled almost 80% of all waste produced, both urban and special, against 56% in France, 43% in Germany, and 39% in Spain (the average EU is stuck at 38%). Italy is first among the 27 EU countries in the circular economy index built on seventeen different indicators, first for the percentage of recycling on total waste, more virtuous than other large European countries for energy consumed/unit of GDP and consumption of material/unit of GDP.

“The circular economy broadens the vision of what it takes to make the ecological transition concrete and fast enough. A perspective that cannot be based only on interventions of ‘technological replacement’ which are also indispensable, but must necessarily involve the sphere of economic behavior and the same styles of consumption. In this sense, the transition from the linear to the circular economic model is a fundamental junction also in cultural terms. If we look at the case of Conou, which regenerates almost all of the used oil collected in Italy, reducing pollution and lightening our energy bill, the path to follow appears clear”, commented Conou president Riccardo Piunti.

“The circular economy has long been one of the pillars on which Europe has decided to build its transition policy and the recent events that have upset the energy and commodity markets have further accentuated the commitment to recovery and valorisation of residues and more generally of waste.Italy, as a country traditionally dependent on imported energy and raw materials, has always been forced to make a virtue of necessity and has been able to acquire a cutting-edge position in this field Consortia such as Conou are one of the virtuous examples of this attitude which coordinates the efforts of industry, consumers and institutions, and they must constitute an impetus and reference factor for the path that still needs to be taken for effective management of waste”, added the vice president of AIEE Carlo Di Primio.