Compostable bioplastics and organic waste collection: the integrated model is an Italian excellence

Compostable bioplastics and organic waste collection: the integrated model is an Italian excellence

From the IX Report on the Italian food chain compostable bioplastics presented in Rome during the conference organized by Assobioplastiche, Biorepack Consortium and Cic (Italian Consortium of Composters), the photograph of a growing sector: the propensity to invest in research and development increases, as well as the positive impacts on the country, both from an industrial point of view and synergies with other sectors (primarily the agricultural one) and from an ecological point of view.

It is an integrated model that from the production of compostable biopolymers reaches up to organic recycling system and their treatment in composting plants, and whose value lies entirely in the numbers contained in the study carried out by Plastic Consulting, independent company that carries out market analysis in the plastics sector. In 2022 thebiodegradable and compostable plastics industry was represented by 271 companies and about 3,000 employees (grown by 135% in just over ten years), with a volume of almost 128,000 tons of compostable products produced (+2.1% on 2021) and a total turnover of 1 million and 168 thousand euros (+10.1% on the previous year). Among the main sectors, the highest rate was once again recorded by disposables (plates, glasses and cutlery) with a +23% compared to 2021.

On the front of recycling activity the numbers are just as positive: the organic recycling of compostable bioplastics reached 60.7% of the quantities released for consumption in 2022, nine points more than in 2021, exceeding the objectives set for 2030 eight years in advance (equal to 55%). Also noteworthy are the data relating to the treatment activity: the 293 composting plants distributed in the various Italian regions treated 4 million tons of organic waste (to which are added a further 63 integrated plants – anaerobic digestion and composting – which treated another 4.3 million tons). This has made it possible to avoid the dispersion of 5.4 megatonnes of CO2 equivalent and to produce over 2 million tons of compost, returning 440,000 tons of organic carbon to agricultural land.

But there are negative notes and concerns. The rate of illegal bags it rose from 22% in 2021 to 28% in 2022. There are various forms of illegality: the marketing of bags for take-away goods or loose food without any legal requirements is very frequent, as is the use of false and deceptive environmental slogans. On the shelves of supermarkets there is also a proliferation of plates, glasses and cutlery made of traditional plastic but sold with the wording "reusable"; a technical trick to get around the rule that prohibits single use and offer products whose production cost is obviously lower.

Marco Versari, president of Biorepack

“All these phenomena – he explained Marco Versari, president of Biorepack – create damage from many points of view. They erode the growth margins of companies that operate within the law and, in doing so, reduce their possibilities of making investments that have positive effects both in terms of employment and for the identification of innovative solutions with reduced environmental impact. Furthermore, they also create economic problems for the Municipalities involved in the separate collection of the organic fraction of waste: a lower quality of the collection in fact equals lower economic considerations that we can guarantee them as a consortium". Therefore, the joint appeal of Assobioplastiche, Biorepack and CIC is inevitable: on the front of the fight against illegality, it is necessary to rethink and strengthen the mechanism of controls, which already involve the various police forces today.

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