Italians are among the most virtuous in Europe in terms of waste reduction, recycling and reuse. But there is an emergency for separate collection

According to the ING International Survey on Circular Economy, our country is among those which, thanks to conscious choices, obtain virtuous results capable of protecting the environment and guaranteeing sustainable economic growth. The good news, however, clashes with the statements of the companies that deal with waste treatment: “We will soon be forced to refuse new supplies of waste to be recycled”.

Environmental protection is an extremely important issue for the Italian people. The conscious choices based on 3Rs, i.e. waste reduction, recycling and reuse, now guide the majority of citizens, and this has led our country to become one of the most virtuous EU nations in “circular economy” practices. More than three out of four Italians (77%) consider the price of slower economic growth to favor greater environmental protection acceptable.

The spread of plastic waste and climate change are undoubtedly the most felt critical issues, so much so that 35% and 39% of Italians are worried respectively. Companies also try to do something for the environment, minimizing the use of plastic and, at the same time, increasing the recycling rate. However, most industrial companies admit that they are unable to act concretely: only 47% – reveals an Alliance for Corporate Transparency study – manage to achieve the goals they set themselves.

The result obtained by Italy is mainly due to the individual citizens who, day after day, have learned to differentiate like nobody else in Europe: thanks to this we are able to recycle 92% of the plastic, followed by Germany (87%) and France (83 %). Globally the tail light is represented by the United States, with a meager 53%. But let’s not forget the third R, the one related to circular economy: in addition to reducing waste and recycling, there is in fact reuse. 60% of Europeans say that in the next 3 years, they will opt for the reuse of objects rather than their disposal.
Even in this context, Italians are among the most virtuous, with an important 64%, ahead of France (62%, the United Kingdom (52%), Germany (49%) and the Netherlands (43%), but behind Turkey (70%), Spain (69%) and Romania (66%). An excellent result therefore, but be careful because on the horizon there are black clouds that threaten our future. The recycling platforms, in fact, are at the end.

“We are in full emergency and shortly – APEC (Association of Circular Economy Platforms), ASSOPIREC (Association of Recovery Platforms) and numerous other selection and recovery companies – know that we will be forced to refuse new supplies of waste to be sent for recycling. We ask the Government and Parliament to activate as soon as possible a technical discussion table between institutions and recycling platforms to overcome the current phase of impasse and avoid the concrete and widespread risk of blocking separate waste collection “.

What are the factors that led to all this?

The situation has become explosive due to a multitude of factors:

– the lack of outlets for the “blocking” of exports to China, Indonesia and other countries, and the reduction of the absorption capacity of industries using recycled materials (paper mills, glassworks, wood panel manufacturers, processing industries of the plastic, etc.) caused difficulties in placing the recovered materials and the generalized collapse of the prices of the latter on the market;

– the desired quantitative increase in separate waste collection is not always accompanied by a qualitative increase, just as today the demand for secondary raw materials is increasingly focusing on “purer” materials and with high quality standards.

Are there any proposals?

Getting out of the emergency is possible, and the parties have made five operational proposals hoping that the government will take immediate action:

  1. To promote the adaptation and technical improvement of plants with investment incentives to increase the quality of processes and materials / products obtained from recycling.
  2. To solve the problem of the lack of market outlets by: facilitating and streamlining the procedures for the export of the selected materials; the involvement, based on the principle of producer responsibility, of the CONAI and its consortia to identify and promote additional outlets; new support measures for the purchase or use of materials / products from recycling (e.g. reduced VAT) in order to avoid or bridge the competitive gap between the latter and natural / virgin materials.
  3. To facilitate the disposal of processing waste from recycling companies by privileging them, in the application of the relative tariffs, compared to the transfer of undifferentiated fractions; at the same time, responding to the growing disposal needs of the plant through the creation of new plants or the expansion of existing ones with more streamlined procedures and certain times.
  4. In an extraordinary and urgent way for this transition period, to cope with the authorization limitations of storage at the plants to avoid blocking the transfers and, consequently, the separate collection.
  5. To provide for an adequate representation of the sector operators in the governing bodies of the system as a whole and of the individual supply chains (as also required by sector regulations).