Italy is a European leader in the use of recycled materials in the production system. How did Italy become a champion in circular economy?
The Italian case is a success both in terms of the quantity of the material sent to the waste recycling plants and in terms of the low cost of the whole recycling chain from the waste collection to the industrial system of new products made from recycled materials.
According to Eurostat, Italy is the major European country with the highest share of circular materials used in the production system: They account for almost one fifth of the total. That places Italy ahead of Germany (with about 10 %). With about 250 tonnes per million euros, Italy is the second most efficient in material consumption (after Great Britain) and is second to Germany in terms of industrial recycling, with 48,5 million tonnes of non-hazardous waste being sent for recycling (this is better than France, the United Kingdom and Spain).
Italy is a country that lacks raw materials but that can boast a long tradition of creativity and design. That has probably contributed to the fast development of the circular economy. Italy in fact has the characteristics and capabilities to develop “circular” business models to better leverage Italian workmanship and the role of the many small and medium-sized enterprises.
The digital transformation of the productive system and the technologies of the so-called Industry 4.0 already offer solutions to make more sustainable production possible and efficient. But the transformation of waste into resources with high added value requires technologies, processes, services and creative business models. This also creates concrete business opportunities for suppliers of these technologies and processes.
One interesting example is the Italian multinational gas and oil company Eni. It will begin to collect used cooking oils from the homes of its employees, which will then be converted into high-quality biofuels.
However, there are still very large geographical differences: The Northern regions of Italy are very virtuous in recycling whereas in many areas in the South the waste collection and recycling still remain a serious challenge.
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