Waste, Italian recycling industry close to EU targets for 2025-2035

The numbers of the annual report ‘Italy that Recycles’, promoted by the Unicircular section of Assoambiente (source EU Commission): the recycling of urban waste has reached 51.4% (2025 objective: 55%), the recycling rate of packaging 72.8% (well above the target of 65% by 2025). Greater commitment will be needed to halve, between now and 2035, the share of waste that currently ends up in landfill, 20.1%

“The Italian recycling industry confirms itself as a leader in Europe and now is close to achieving the material recovery objectives set at EU level for 2025-2035. In some cases, such as packaging recycling, these have already been exceeded. However, for a truly circular economic system in the use of resources, it is necessary to follow a work agenda over the next two years that will allow us to make the definitive leap in quality.” These are the main findings that emerged during the presentation of the annual report, held today in Rome ‘Italy that Recycles’, promoted by the Unicircular section of Assoambiente – the Association of urban hygiene, recycling, recovery, circular economy and waste disposal companies, as well as reclamation.

The numbers

Italy, according to data from the EU Commission, confirms its European excellence in the recycling sector and in the production of new materials from waste, fully in the running to achieve the EU objectives for 2025 and 2035: the recycling of urban waste has reached share 51.4% (2025 objective: 55%), the packaging recycling rate 72.8% (well above the 65% target for 2025).

Greater commitment will be needed to halve the share of waste that currently ends up in landfill, 20.1%, between now and 2035..

Italy is in fact one of the nine EU member states that are virtuous in waste management, while 18 (including France, Spain, Portugal and Sweden) are still far from reaching the defined targets. Indeed, eight Member States still landfill more than 50% of their municipal waste.

The work agenda for the next two years

In this year’s Report Assoambiente defined ‘a Work Agenda 2024-2025’ for national and European institutions, a real programmatic manifesto of the Italian recycling industry divided into 10 pointsto provide a decisive contribution to the transition towards a truly circular economy in the use of resources.

‘Whatever it takes’ for recycled materials: the effectiveness of recycling processes cannot be ignored placement on the markets of the recovered products, today partly unused. The outlet markets for these materials must be supported by adequate economic and fiscal instruments: above all, recycling certificates and extension of the white certificate mechanism.

Quotas of recycled materials in products: one of the most effective tools to support the placement of recycled materials on the market is the prescription of minimum quotas of recycled content in products. Alongside this tool, a strengthening of the green purchases of the PA (Green Public Procurement) and Minimum Environmental Criteria.

It’s still: Reduced VAT for materials obtained from recycling; energy recovery complementary to recycling: the waste hierarchy must be respected which sees it subordinate to prevention and recycling, but preferable to incineration without energy recovery and disposal in landfill (this role must be strengthened); quicker and more certain authorization processes: it is necessary to streamline the timing of the authorization processes for the construction of new plants and for the updating of existing ones; ecodesign: the goods design phase determines up to 80% of the environmental impact of the products. Policies must be applied aimed at avoiding the production or importation of goods containing materials that compromise the quality of recycling; new product producer responsibility schemes: the environmental cost of managing them throughout their entire life cycle must really be placed in the hands of the producers of the goods (which then become waste), thus also encouraging a real rethinking of the production processes.

In the end: End of Waste decrees (rules that govern the processes by which waste ceases to be waste): the definition of common criteria in the EU must make it possible to achieve a balance between the market and environmental protection, starting from the concrete applications of recycled products; waste transportation: the disciplines on the cross-border movement of products and waste must be standardized (to date there is still no connection between the Codes of the European waste list and the Customs Codes, this generates excessive discretion in customs controls); the role of Arera: greater clarity in the system of rules designed by Arera and applied by the various Public Administrations appears essential.

“The centrality of recycling operators has been strengthening in recent years, due to the growing awareness of the consequences of climate change and the active role played in the transition process towards a circular economy, but also in light of the changed international context, for which Having raw materials and energy available from the recycling of waste produced in our country constitutes a decisive economic factor”, commented Paolo Barberi, president of the Unicircular Section of Assoambiente.

“Also for these reasons, the recycling industry requires adequate support from policy makers, so that all regulatory, legal and economic obstacles are removed which hinder its full development across the various supply chains. Only in this way will this sector truly be able to act as an enabler of the green transition, capable of effectively intercepting both the circularity and energy aspects”, added Chicco Testa, president of Assoambiente.