Recycling rate of 83.2%, Italy is the leader in Europe

The ‘L’Italia che Ricicla’ study: we export 4.2 million t that could be recovered

“There are more lights than shadows for Italy that recycles waste. Our country is the leader in Europe for recycling rate and second for circularity rate. We still export too much waste, also due to the lack of an adequate plant system, especially in the centre-south of the country. To meet the challenges posed by the Pnrr and by the objectives set at European level, it is necessary to focus on tools (for example ‘green purchases of the Public Administration’ and tax incentives on recycled products) capable of making the national recycling industry make the definitive leap in quality ”. These are the main findings that emerged during the presentation of the annual study ‘Italy that recycles’, the Report presented by Assoambiente – the Association that represents companies operating in the urban hygiene, recycling, recovery, circular economy and waste disposal sectors, as well as remediation.

Italy ranks first in Europe for start-up rate for waste recycling (both urban and special), compared to the total managed. The Italian figure, equal to 83.2% (referring to 2020, latest data available), is decidedly higher not only than the EU average (39.2%), but also compared to the major EU countries: Spain (60, 5%), France (54.4%) and Germany (44%). Looking to material circularity rate, which measures the share of recycled material and reintroduced into the economy in the overall use of materials, Italy, with 21.6%, is placed slightly below the primacy of France (22.2%) and in any case above Germany (13.4%) and Spain (11.2%) and, more generally, above the EU average (12.8%). A decidedly growing trend, if we take into account that this indicator stood at 12.6% only 9 years ago. A primacy that is also confirmed with reference to the rate of use of recycled metalswhich denotes the contribution offered by recycled metals to satisfying overall demand: here Italy even constitutes the reference benchmark among the main European countries with 47.2%, with France (39.3%), Germany (27. 3%) and Spain (18.5%) much further behind.

So far the positive notes. Much remains to be done on various fronts to make the recycling industry the fulcrum of a new development strategy for the country, based on the circular economy. fromplant: if Germany is the European leader with 10,497 active plants, Italy is in second place, with 6,456 material recovery plants, followed by Spain with 4,007 plants. An apparently positive figure, but characterized by a high number of medium-small sized plants and mostly located in the centre-north of the country, specifically in the regions where the manufacturing sector is particularly active and where recovered materials can easily be reintegrated: in Lombardy alone there is 22% of the national plant dedicated to the recovery of materials. Own Lombardy is the Region that recycles the mostwith a total of 31,018,381 tons sent for recovery, followed by Veneto with 12,377,245 tons and Emilia-Romagna with 10,010,270 tons.

Chapter export. In 2020, over 3.6 million tons of industrial waste and just over 581 thousand tons of urban waste were exported from Italy, for a total of 4.2 million tons of waste, sent across the border where they are mostly sent to recovery.

“Waste recycling, in addition to the central value it has for the ecological transition – commented Paolo Barberi, vice president of Assoambiente – is today even more strategic for increasing the economic resilience of our country, traditionally poor in raw materials, particularly in this phase of economic-energy emergency that matured in the post-pandemic. The qualitative leap for the sector, also due to the positive outcome of the part of the Pnrr relating to waste management, can only come with the full implementation of the reforms. In this sense, it is essential that the economic instruments envisaged by the National Strategy for the Circular Economy be fully and quickly adopted, starting with the introduction of Recycling Certificates, as well as effective instruments such as tax incentives (for example with reduced VAT) to make recycled materials competitive with virgin raw materials. Another intervention of fundamental importance is the rapid adoption of the technical standards that should regulate the sector by favoring the creation of a stable and transparent market, whether they relate to End of Waste, by-products, or the Minimum Environmental Criteria for tenders public. Finally, the public demand for recycled products must be strengthened and made effective”.