Photographer: Johny Kristensen
Photographer: Johny Kristensen

– We need more Italian waste resources in the Nordics

June 30, 2022
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Of the approximately 30 million tons of household waste produced in Italy each year, nearly 50 percent goes to landfill. "To increase the recycling rate and ensure a more sustainable final treatment, the Nordic countries and Europe need to make much more use of Italian residual waste," says Michele Benvenuti, Geminor's country manager in Italy.

According to data from the Italian Institute for Environmental Research, ISPRA, 65 million Italian citizens produced around 30 million tons of municipal solid waste (MSW) in 2020, or close to 500 kg per person. In addition, Italian businesses produced around 154 million tons of industrial waste.

In the same year, it is recorded that around 20 percent of household waste in Italy went to landfill, a significant percentage in the European context. But the percentage going to landfill is in practice even higher," explains Michele Benvenuti, Country Manager of Geminor in Italy.

- Almost 30 percent of Italian MSW is biologically treated and much of it is used as landfill cover. Thus, the total amount of landfilled waste amounts to close to 50 percent. "This share only underlines the current challenge of Italian waste management, but also the potential," says Benvenuti.

Reduced energy recovery

Michele Benvenuti at Geminor.

- Only 18% of Italian household waste goes to national energy recovery plants and currently only 37 WtE plants are in operation, down from 41 in the last couple of years. The development of efficient energy recovery facilities has stalled, potentially sending even more waste to landfill.

- "In short, we currently lack capacity for efficient energy recovery in Italy, and soon we will also lack capacity for disposal," says Michele Benvenuti.

Surplus market

The main import countries for Italian RDF (Refuse-derived fuel) are Germany, the Netherlands and Spain, but also energy recovery operators in Scandinavia are increasingly interested in Italian waste resources. Nevertheless, total RDF exports from Italy were only 580 000 tons in 2020. In comparison, the UK, which is the largest RDF and SRF exporter in Europe, exported a total of over 1.6 million tons in the same year.

Since opening its own office in Italy in May 2020, Geminor has been assisting the market by exporting RDF, SRF and other waste fractions to other European countries in need of waste for energy recovery.

- In a fluctuating European waste market, we see that Italy can contribute in a positive way. The EU and the Nordics need waste for energy recovery with both high and low calorific value, as well as bioRDF. We are now building export routes northwards to help convert Italian household waste into energy resources, and in time also new products through recycling," says Benvenuti.

To increase recycling rates and find more sustainable final treatment, Benvenuti calls for better international utilization of Italian waste.

- To make exports more efficient and reliable, and thus more clearly integrate Italy into the European waste market, we need better industry cooperation between producers, transporters, receivers, waste handlers and authorities. Italy can help bring more balance to the waste market, but needs both appropriate infrastructure and a better reputation to get there.

Transportation of RDF.

- It is no secret that transportation and logistics from Italy is currently a challenge, and the long distance to Northern Europe - especially by sea - makes transportation from Italy more vulnerable to price increases. Better shipping capacity, more trucks on the roads and an upgrade of the rail network in Europe will help in the process of bringing more waste from Italy to the Nordic region," concludes Michele Benvenuti, Country Manager for Geminor in Italy.