Europe: Geminor Calls for Better Utilization of Italian Waste Resources

Italy has a recycling rate of 51.4 percent, which is in line with EU standards. According to Michele Benvenuti, who works as Country Manager for Norwegian-based company Geminor in Italy, the country can contribute more to the EU waste balance and the circular economy.

On its homepage, Geminor was reporting that Italy produces about 30 million tons of household waste every year; close to 50 percent of this amount would go to landfill. Michele Benvenuti believes that to increase the recovery rate and find more sustainable deposits, Europe must utilize a lot more of the disposable Italian waste.

As reported, 65 million Italian nationals produced close to 500 kilograms of municipal solid waste (MSW) per person in 2020, referring to data from the Italian institute for environmental research, ISPRA. In addition, Italian businesses produced about 154 million tons of industrial waste. “In the same year, about 20 percent of the household waste went to landfill in Italy,” explained Michele Benvenuti. “In a European context this is a substantial share, but the landfill rate is in practice even higher.”

Almost 30 percent of Italian MSW were biologically treated, and a considerable part of this is not compostable and used in landfill operations, “which brings the total amount of landfilled waste closer to 50 percent. This just emphasizes the present challenge of Italian waste management, but also the potential”.

18 percent of Italian household waste would go to national WtE (waste to energy) plants, “and currently we only have 37 incineration (WtE) plants in operation, falling from 41 in the last few years,” Michele Benvenuti informed. The development of plants for efficient energy recovery had come to a halt, potentially bringing even more waste to landfill. “Thus, we lack capacity for energy recovery in Italy, and soon we will also lack capacity for landfill.”

Surplus market
The biggest importing countries for Italian RDF (refuse-derived fuel) are Germany, the Netherlands, and Spain, but also the WtE players in Scandinavia are gradually taking interest in Italian waste resources. Still, the total RDF export from Italy had been just 580,000 tons in 2020. In comparison, the biggest RDF and SRF (solid recovered fuel) exporter, England, had exported a total of over 1.6 million tons in the same year, Geminor wrote. Since establishing an office in Italy in May 2020, the company had assisted the market by exporting RDF, SRF and hazardous waste from Italy to other European countries in need of waste resources.

As underlined by Michele Benvenuti, the EU market is in need of secondary fuels with both high and low calorific value, as well as low-carbon bio-RDF. “We are now building streams to help convert Italian MSW into energy resources, and in time also new products through recycling,” he was quoted.

In order to increase the recovery rate and find a more sustainable offtake, he calls for better international utilization of Italian waste. “The process of making export efficient and reliable, and by this fully integrating Italy into the European waste market, will need improved cooperation between producers, transporters, off-takers, waste managers and authorities. Italy can contribute to the EU waste balance and the circular economy, but needs to build both reputation and infrastructure to get there.” Transportation and logistics from Italy currently were a challenge, “and the long distance to Northern Europe makes this transport more prone to increased prices. Better shipping capacity, more lorry drivers and an upgrade of railway infrastructure will help in the process of bringing more waste resources from Italy to other EU countries”.

(Published in GLOBAL RECYCLING Magazine 3/2022, Page 32, Photo: Geminor)