Italy Sets European Record in Waste Recycling

Environment - November 12, 2023

This Achievement Places Italy as a Reference Example for Sustainable Waste Management in the European Union.

Italy is a leader in the EU in the circular economy with a recycling, in 2022, of 83.4% of all waste (urban and special). A recycling rate of over 30 points above the EU average (52.6%) and well above all other large European countries, such as France (64.4%), Germany (70%), Spain (59.8 %). This was revealed in the 14th edition of the Greenitaly report by Fondazione Symbola, Unioncamere and Centro Studi Tagliacarne. Italy is one of the few European countries that from 2010 to 2020 (despite an already high recycling rate) improved its performance: +10 percentage points, compared to an EU average of 6 points. In the two-year period 2020-2021, there was an unexpected consolidation of Italy’s industrial recycling capacity – especially in the paper sector – which saw the share of secondary materials used increase, even significantly, in all sectors.
Success is the result of sustained efforts, targeted policies and significant cultural changes at the national level. Waste management is a crucial issue for the entire planet. With growing awareness of the devastating impact of waste on the environment, recycling has become a key tool for reducing pollution and preserving natural resources. Italy, through coordinated efforts and policies focused on recycling, has demonstrated a serious commitment to reducing the environmental impact resulting from waste.
The latest data shows that three quarters of the waste produced in Italy is recycled rather than ending up in landfill. Such a percentage represents a significant achievement, especially considering the complexity of large-scale waste management systems. The credit for this success can be attributed to various factors including, for example, the active involvement of Italian citizens, information campaigns, environmental education in schools and the promotion of the conscious use of resources, which have contributed to raising awareness the population on the importance of recycling.
Furthermore, the support of local institutions and administrations was crucial. Targeted policies and investments in recycling infrastructure have created a favourable environment for the correct disposal of waste and its reuse. Italian success in waste recycling is also the result of national policies and targeted initiatives. The national plan for waste management, together with specific measures for separate waste collection, has contributed significantly to achieving this objective. Separate waste collection, which divides waste into specific categories for recycling, has been implemented in an extensive and regulated manner. In many Italian cities, it has become daily practice for citizens to separate paper, plastic, glass and organic waste, making effective recycling possible.
At the same time, technological innovation has played a key role. New techniques and technologies for waste treatment have been introduced, allowing the recycling of materials that were once considered unrecoverable. The Italian record in waste recycling has several positive impacts both nationally and internationally. Reducing pollution and the amount of waste going to landfill has a direct impact on public health and the environment and Italy is actively contributing to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, thus supporting global efforts to tackle climate change. However, despite this great success, there are challenges and areas in which to improve and continued attention to waste management and public education is essential as well as developing new strategies to further reduce non-recyclable waste and boost the economy. circular to maximize the reuse of resources.
The Italian record in waste recycling is an achievement to be celebrated and an example of how collective commitment, targeted policy and innovation can lead to significant positive changes. Italy is demonstrating to the rest of the world that it is possible to sustainably manage waste, conserve resources and protect the environment. Italy’s success offers an important lesson: the environment can benefit enormously from the joint action of individuals, institutions and companies. By continuing on this path, Italy could not only maintain its primacy, but also inspire and positively influence waste management globally.