Staff collection, the green supply chain that is good for the climate and businesses

Since January, the obligation has been activated in all municipalities

From 1 January 2022, in all Italian municipalities it will be mandatory to provide for the separate collection of the wet fraction: organic waste must be separated from other waste and together with food residues, biodegradable and compostable plastic packaging, EN certified, must also be collected. 13432, for transformation into compost. Bioplastic bags first of all but also fruit and vegetable packaging, plates, glasses and disposable tableware made of compostable material. This is foreseen by article 182 ter of legislative decree 152/2006 which transposes the European directive 2018/851 on waste in Italy. The entry into force of this obligation anticipates by two years a similar commitment that will be introduced in the rest of the EU at the beginning of 2024. The provision requires Italian Municipalities to activate a separate collection service for the wet fraction to be implemented through reusable emptying containers or with compostable bags certified according to UNI EN 13432-2002.

The advantages for separate collection

“The standard introduced by the European directive, and anticipated in Italy, is excellent news for anyone who cares about the correct sustainable management of post-consumer materials – he explains Enzo Favoino, researcher at the Agricultural School of the Monza Park and Coordinator of the Scientific Committee of Zero Waste EuropeThe collection of staff is essential because it offers an essential contribution to maximizing the rates of separate collection. Without the staff we would not have been able to reach about 65% of separate waste collection achieved by Italy. Furthermore, by separating the organic matter well, we reduce the fermentability of undifferentiated residual waste that cannot be recycled. This allows municipalities to reduce the frequency of collection which, in addition to reducing overall collection costs, pushes citizens to better separate the other recyclable fractions “.

Fertility and climate

The positive contribution in environmental terms of an increase in compost production should not be underestimated. An activity that sees Italy at the top of the European ranking (the capacity of our composting system exceeds 7 million tons, second only to Germany). To date, 80% of the population is connected with the collection of organic waste. The new obligation will make it possible to extend it to 100%. “From an agronomic point of view – continues Favoino – separating the organic material from the rest of the waste is important to return living and fertile matter to the soil.. The fertility of the soils essentially depends on the presence of organic matter. Not surprisingly, soil scientists speak of a ‘state of pre-desertification’ when soils become excessively depleted of organic matter. By returning the latter to the soil, we enhance its fertility from all points of view: from the water retention capacity, to the activities of soil microorganisms, to the availability of nutrients “.

To benefit from this return of organic matter is not only agricultural productivity and plant health but also the fight against climate change. The organic substance, in fact, is essentially made of carbon. The latter, while in soils it determines its fertility as the main constituent of the organic substance, in the atmosphere, in the form of CO2, is one of the main factors that determine the greenhouse effect. Soils are the second largest carbon warehouse on the planet after the oceans. “If we have more carbon in the soils, in the carbon balance we will therefore have less carbon in the atmosphere, where it produces negative effects such as global warming” explains Favoino.

On this path, compostable bioplastics can also make their contribution, when they are correctly conferred together with the organic. “Let’s always remember to use compostable bioplastics to collect the organic fraction – he says Marco Versari, president of Biorepack – Biodegradable and compostable bags have contributed to making Italy the European country that collects the most organic fraction. Together with the organic, the shopping bags, the coffee pods made of compostable material, the new packaging must now be disposed of in the wet.. All this contributes to further increase these collection rates “. Attention, however.” We absolutely must avoid conventional plastic bags to collect the damp – Favoino warns – because plastic becomes a contaminant that fragments and in the form of microplastics would end up by enter the food chain. We must therefore use certified compostable plastic bags. Fortunately, we have had a European reference standard for 20 years and we must continue to make it known and use it “.

Compostable packaging

To support separate waste collection and achieve organic recycling objectives, Biorepack, the supply chain consortium of the Conai system dedicated to compostable bioplastic packaging, was established in 2020 and is the first on the European scene. “Biorepack must ensure that compostable packaging is collected together with the wet fraction and this contributes to the qualitative improvement of the collection – explains Versari – Biorepack has recently signed an agreement with Anci which recognizes certain economic payments for the organization of separate collection, transport and treatment of compostable bioplastic packaging waste. By doing so, we not only guarantee benefits to our fellow citizens but we guarantee the development of a sustainable industry, which produces products in compostable bioplastic and which represents internationally recognized excellence “.

The circular supply chain

“The choice made by Parliament first and then by the government in the implementation of the circular economy package was certainly not accidental or reckless – he explains Ilaria Fontana, Undersecretary of the Ministry of Ecological Transition – This is an assumption of responsibility matured after years of virtuous management of the organic fraction in our country which has been able, for years, to transform residues (whose environmental, odorous and climate-altering impacts can be significant), on an important occasion to protect our environmental matrices and ecological transition. We must consider this step linked to the mandatory collection of wet waste throughout the country not only from a recycling perspective but from a bioeconomy perspective, i.e. a systemic vision in which a primary asset such as our food or the green of the maintenance of our gardens is called, through composting practices, to bring organic matter back to the soils impoverished by the intensive use of man combined with the ongoing climate changes. The goal is to have more fertile soils, less CO2 emissions into the atmosphere (which ends up fixed in the soil through the compost) and at the same time to recreate the conditions so that that soil can regenerate food crops or, in marginal areas, crops capable of growing in arid or contaminated soils to create renewable products without the use of fossil sources. Once consumed, food or organic products will follow the same circular pattern that I described in their end-of-life “.