President's Blog

7 Mar 2017 19:38 Age: 3 yrs

Guest Blog: ISWA Biowaste Working Group Chair, Marco Ricci

Category: ISWA BLOG


This issue of the ISWA President's Blog has been penned by Marco Ricci, Chair of ISWA's Working Group on the Biological Treatment of Waste.


Enjoy reading his post!

20 years of separate collection

In February 1997 the Italian national Decree n° 22 was adopted reorganising the framework conditions and the strategic outlook for MSW in the whole country.

Today Italians collect separately 48% of all MSW with peaks of about 70% in the two best-performing Regions; about 20 million Italians sort dayly more than 60% of their MSW.


In the last two decades between 1997 and 2017 the amounts of organic waste collected separately increased by a factor 10, while main dry recyclables (i.e. paper, cardboard, plastics and glass) have risen by a factor 4 “only”. In 2015 more than 6.1 million [metric] tonnes of food and garden waste were collected separately in Italian municipalities, accounting for 100 kg per-capita and year; a significant threshold.


Intensive sorting schemes for food waste are adopted in single municipalities and large districts (such as the experience in Treviso District reaching about 85% separate collection and recycling) and including medium-size towns (such as Parma or Bolzano applying kerbside collection and PAYT charges) or Metropolitan Cities (such as Milan see were significant amounts of food waste are collected and contribute to achieve high recycling rates.


Finally it is worth linking Italian’s data about separate collection to the recycling rates according to the EU Directive 2008/98/CE; according to methodology n° 2 Italy reached 46% recycling in 2015 so the 50% target for year 2020 will be met, considering the growth of separate collection of the past decades.


Lesson learned from a broader perspective

Tackling organics is an issue for waste managers worldwide and specifically in countries less advanced in MSW management. From a simple mass-balance perspective the correct management of organics should always come first in these situations, since food and garden waste account from 50% to 70% (and beyond) of all MSW collected, also in large cities. This especially applies to countries with a lack of proper pretreatment of waste before disposal or with poor-managed landfill sites.


Italy is a remarkable showcase in the context of MSW management, the Country having a variety of climatic conditions which go from the mild and colder climate of the flatlands of the north (a climate comparable to Central Europe) down to hot, mediterranean weather of the south.


Well, in all these “areas” separate collection of organics and specifically food-waste has been adopted with success once recycling facilities for organics (i.e. composting and in a later stage biogas) have been realised by local authorities and (more often, in the Italian context) by private entrepreneurs. The change of habits of people is manly a matter of clear communication, correct equipments for sorting at home and a clear vision and strategy in which local authorities have to engage. Results in terms of rising separate collection by households can be achieved in a time frame of months.