Circular Economy: Italy leads in Europe but slows in Raee recycling
Italy at the forefront of the circular economy
Italy is among the most virtuous EU countries as a circular economy. But it remains far from the goals of a circular economy that significantly reduces the use of primary raw materials and increases that of secondary raw materials obtained by recycling, regenerating and transforming existing end-of-life products.
According to the “4th Report of the Circular Economy in Italy – 2022” edited by Circular Economy Network, Foundation for Sustainable Development and Enea, in 2020 (latest available data) Italy’s rate of circular material use, growing steadily for ten years, was still 21.6 percent compared to the EU average of 12.8 percent: the fourth highest after the Netherlands, Belgium and France.
Better than the European average, Italy’s resource productivity is also better: 3.5 euros of GDP generated for every kg consumed (2.1 euros of GDP in the EU). In addition, in the 2010-2020 decade, Italy has reduced per capita use of raw materials by 36%: in 2020 in Italy 7.4 tons per inhabitant compared to the European average of 13 tons (this figure is decreasing everywhere also due to the extra-EU relocation of many productive activities
Missed opportunities: the Italian lag in WEEE recycling
Italy leads Europe in waste recycling: 83 percent in 2020, compared to the EU average of 39.2 percent (Eurostat data). In particular, according to the Circular Economy Report, Italy ranks first for recycling special waste (75 percent in 2018) and municipal waste (54.4 percent in 2020).
On the other hand, it is behind, fourth last, and has recently slowed down in the recycling of electrical and electronic waste (WEEE), which is an important source of reusable metals (Eurostat data: Italy 32.1 percent in 2017, EU average 37 percent).
Views for a more sustainable circular economy in Italy
The circular economy is not taking off because the decoupling between GDP growth and raw material use is still very weak. To achieve the sustainability goals, the European Action Plan for the Circular Economy places great emphasis on ecodesign (eco-design of products) and circularity of production processes in the most resource-intensive and environmentally high-impact sectors (plastics, textiles, construction, electronics, food, batteries, vehicles). Thus, the rapid and full implementation of NRP measures also matters in all of this.