Milan, 4 July 2022 – In 2021 Italy sent 73.3% of the packaging placed on the market for recycling: 10 million 550 thousand tonnes. A slightly higher percentage compared to the record of 2020, when a recycling start-up level of close to 73% was reached, and a result that far exceeds the 65% total recycling demanded by Europe from its member states by 2025.
Total recovery exceeds 82%. 727 million euro paid by CONAI to municipalities for separate waste collection, 445 million to finance treatment, recycling and recovery activities. President Luca Ruini: ‘At a time of crisis related to raw materials and energy, our cities are increasingly urban mines that produce resources. Increasing deliveries to CONAI in the Centre and South, decreasing in the North

All this despite a year of strong recovery in consumption, which saw an exponential increase in the amount of packaging released for consumption: over 14 million tonnes, about 8.5% more than the previous year.
This is the picture CONAI paints when releasing its new General Programme, which reports on the country’s results for 2021. “In a pandemic situation that loosened its grip but did not cease, the recovery in consumption in 2021 was really strong,” explains Luca Ruini, CONAI president. “And since recycling rates are based on the amount of packaging placed on the market, many thought that Italy would not confirm the 73% in 2020. The Italians, however, have confirmed that they are very good at separate collection, and our work has not stopped. Thus, Italy was able to send a new record amount of packaging for recycling’.

In detail, almost 400 thousand tonnes of steel; 53 thousand tonnes of aluminium; over 4 million 450 thousand tonnes of paper and cardboard; almost 2 million 200 thousand tonnes of wood; over 1 million 250 thousand tonnes of plastic and bioplastics; and almost 2 million 200 thousand tonnes of glass have found a second life. The 10,550,000 tonnes of packaging sent for recycling is a result achieved 50% thanks to the work of the supply chain consortia of the CONAI system, 48% thanks to independent recyclers and the remaining 2% thanks to the work of independent systems.

The intervention of the system was reduced by about two percentage points compared to last year, as is normal in favourable times for the market, demonstrating the role of subsidiarity that the Consortium has been playing for twenty-five years. If we add to the recycling figures those of energy recovery, which uses packaging waste as an alternative fuel to produce energy, the numbers grow: in 2021 Italy will exceed 82% of recovered packaging, or more than 11.8 million tonnes.

“This is a great result for Italy,” comments President Ruini. “More than eight out of ten pieces of packaging today avoid landfill. We are first among the big European countries, according to Eurostat data, for per capita recycling, and the vast majority of recycling takes place at home, not abroad. Not to mention that in our country recycling gives more efficient results at costs that are among the lowest in Europe. Our cities, moreover, are increasingly true urban mines: the growing quantities of waste sent for recycling are transformed into new raw materials, and the small percentage that goes to energy recovery becomes an alternative to fossil fuels. At a time of crisis related to both raw materials and energy, the Italian results should give us pause for thought’.

727 million to Italian municipalities: The national figures could not be so positive if it were not for the work carried out by CONAI with Italian municipalities through the national agreement with ANCI, which allows them to intercept flows from urban collection, as well as with a network of 579 regeneration, repair and recycling platforms dealing with commercial and industrial packaging, in agreement with the supply chain consortia.

In 2021, 7,583 municipalities signed at least one agreement with the consortium system, with 98% of the population served. In order to cover the higher costs that municipalities incur in collecting waste separately in 2021, the CONAI system paid the country’s local administrations almost EUR 727 million, about EUR 70 million more than the previous year. 445 million, on the other hand, were allocated by the system to finance treatment, recycling and recovery activities.

Always with a special focus on the areas of Southern Italy, where collection must continue to grow. “Over the past year, special territorial projects in the regions of Central and Southern Italy have involved more than 15 million inhabitants,” Ruini reveals. “And a special project was carried out with ANCI to help the municipalities of Puglia, Calabria, Campania and Sicily to drain part of the PNRR funds: 189 municipalities were supported in presenting 1,775 project solutions, worth 115 million euros.”

Also thanks to all these activities, the packaging waste conferred by municipalities to the CONAI system grew in the Centre (+4.5%) and in the South (+4.4%), offsetting the drop recorded in the North (-2.5%), where the figure was mainly affected by a drop in steel and aluminium conferrals due to the favourable quotations of ferrous scrap, which made it more convenient to entrust metals to the free market.