Paper and cardboard collection and recycling are growing, but the South must do more

Paper and cardboard collection and recycling are growing, but the South must do more

BARI – Italy confirms its own primacy of the circular economy for paper and cardboard packaging. Also in 2022 separate waste collection has grown. Overall more than were collected 3.6 million tons of cellulosic materials, 20 thousand tons more than in 2021, with an increase of 0.6 percent. The recycling rate stood at81.2 percentfar above the European targets for 2025. This was revealed by the 25th Annual Report on the collection and recycling of paper and cardboard developed by Comieco, the national consortium for the recovery and recycling of cellulose-based packaging.

It's about satisfactory results which confirm the solidity of the collection system, recycling and recovery, achieved in a general context characterized by the drop in consumption, especially of food products, and by the rise in the costs of raw materials and energy with negative effects on the inflation rate. Overall, the waste production was reduced by more than one million tons. Despite everything, separate waste collection has become a good habit of Italians, as demonstrated by the national average of per capita collection, which has grown to 61.5 kilograms.

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The macro areas

A result never achieved before, to which the macro areas into which the country is divided have contributed. Norththe overall result of differentiated collection was recorded 8 thousand tons more than in 2021 (plus 0.4). Driving the growth were Valle d'Aosta, Lombardy and Emilia Romagna, which with an overall increase of 20,000 tonnes compensated for the drop of 12,000 tonnes recorded in Piedmont, Veneto and Trentino-Alto Adige. On the other hand, Liguria and Friuli-Venezia Giulia are stable. In the central regions the collection did register 4 thousand tons more than in 2021equal to 0.5 per cent. A result achieved thanks above all to Tuscany and Umbria, with a plus of 12 percent. In slight decrease, the Marches, with a contraction of 5 thousand tons, and Lazio, with less 3 thousand tons. In the latter case, the difficult situation of the collection service in Rome weighs above all. The South, instead, it achieves the same Northern increment: plus 0.8 percent, equal to 8 thousand tons. With the exception of Campania, which remains stable, and the decline in Sardinia and Abruzzo (3 thousand tonnes less than in 2021), the other regions recorded growth rates of just under 4 percent. If one looks at the per capita collection percentage, the palm of the best performance belongs to Emilia Romagna, with an average of 90 kilograms per inhabitant, for Northern Italy; to Tuscany, with just under 88 kilograms per inhabitant, for the Centre; to Sardinia, with 60 kilograms per inhabitant, for the South.

Southern problems

Overall the Comieco has signed 972 conventions to regulate the acceptance and recycling of cellulosic material from separate collection in 6,840 Municipalities. Center and North count respectively 87 and 160 active conventionsAnd. The South, with 725 agreements, confirms one chronic fragmentation in the management of conventions. The effects of this fragmentation - notes Comieco - are not negligible and affect collection levels and speed. In practice, in the South the average remains one agreement for every 3 Municipalities, in the Center one for every 10 and in the North one for every 23. In 2022 the Consortium started recycling just under 2 million tons of paper and cardboard, 55 per cent of the national municipal collection. Comieco committed 183 million, for the management of just under 2 million tons of paper and cardboard from the municipal collection managed under the agreement. Analyzing the data by city, the Report highlights the growth of Genoa (up 5.4 percent), Florence (up 5.1 percent) and Palermo (up 3.9 percent). Milan (up 0.5 percent) and Turin (up 0.3 percent) remain stable. On the other hand, Naples (minus 1.5 percent) and Rome (minus 0.3 percent) are down. In the 25 years of operation (1998-2022) of the Anci-Conai agreement, Comieco has awarded Italian municipalities 2.1 billion euros for the collection of cellulosic packaging.
For the future, we aim for one increase in collection and recycling activities. According to the Consortium, it is in the Noon where the greatest growth potential is concentrated. In the southern regions, in fact, more than 50 percent of the 800,000 tons of paper and cardboard that still end up in the unsorted waste is available. Intercepting this quantity of packaging and sending it for recycling is one of the challenges that Italy will have to overcome in the coming years. A change of pace, from this point of view, is required above all in Sicily, Campania and Puglia.

The voice of the experts

“The data confirm the need to strengthen the commitment in the South – he comments Alberto Marchi, president of Comieco -. For this reason we have prepared an extraordinary investment plan of 3.5 million euros to be used to increase the quantity and develop the quality of collection, involving over 3 million inhabitants and 34 Municipalities of the South, representing all the regions. It will be essential the contribution of the Pnrr which foresees a loan of 128 million for 70 projects approved in the centre-south. To these will be added the investments planned for the entire supply chain for a total of more than 466 million. Plant engineering will be upgraded, which will increase the treatment capacity of the supply chain by 700,000 tonnes”. The General Manager of Comieco, Carlo Montalbetti, foresees a further improvement in results as early as 2024. “The drive to increase the separate collection of paper and cardboard will also be supported by a renewed recycling capacity – he announces -. After the reconversion of three paper mills, capable of recycling 1.2 million tons of paper a year, the start-up of another plant is expected by 2024, which will be able to process another 400,000 tons when fully operational".

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