Exploring key materials and cutting-edge technologies driving the recycling sector

The recycling of waste and recyclable materials is a fundamental element for building a sustainable future for our planet. In Italy, the growing awareness of the importance of recycling has translated into significant results in the sector, highlighting a tangible contribution to the circular economy. The data speaks for itself: Italy ranks above the EU average in waste recycling, both special and urban, with a rate of 72%, compared to the European average of around 58%.

What are the most recycled materials in recent years, and what actions are needed to further incentivize the recycling of waste and reusable materials? In this article, we will examine the trends in the recycling market in Italy, analyzing the progress made, achieved objectives, and prospects, focusing on various materials such as packaging, plastic, paper and cardboard, urban solid waste, organic waste, and aluminum.

Packaging: Glass, Paper and Cardboard, Steel, and Plastic

In the packaging sector, which includes glass, paper and cardboard, steel, and plastic, Italy is achieving notable success. The national target of 75%, equivalent to approximately 11 million tons of packaging, seems to be surpassed in 2023, exceeding the 65% required by the European Union by 2025. Estimates indicate that over 80% of glass packaging and over 85% of paper and cardboard packaging will be recycled this year, allowing the recovery of about 4.3 million tons of paper and cardboard.

Watch the stationary Hexact screen in action with paper and cardboard here.

Similarly, steel packaging reaches a recycling rate of 77%, while plastic and bioplastics, though less recycled (59%), show a strong commitment towards more sustainable material management. Recent Italian legislation favoring eco-design for circular product design plays a role in this data. This thorough analysis, starting from the packaging conception phase, aims to reduce the use of raw materials and increase the circularity of materials.

Plastic Waste

The plastic material recycling market in Italy is rather dynamic, involving over 350 companies, including waste collectors and sorters, and industrial waste handlers (excluding urban waste collection companies). The Northwest, particularly Lombardy, remains the epicenter of mechanical recycling plants, representing almost 40% of the national total. Today, there are 200 producers of secondary raw materials, with a growing commitment to achieving European goals supported by the National Recovery and Resilience Plan (PNRR).

In some of the largest plastic treatment plants, the Ecostar stationary screens are doing a great job. An example is one of the reference plants in central Italy: the recycling and recovery plant of REVET SPA.

Watch how Ecostar screening solutions operate at the REVET SPA facility.

Municipal Solid Waste

Italy has witnessed an increase in municipal solid waste production in 2021, reaching 502 kg per inhabitant. Although the separate collection has reached 64% of national production, there is a need to accelerate improvements in the management system to meet community goals, especially in the Central-Southern regions, where the recycling rate is stagnant at 48% since 2019.

In 2021, there were 657 active urban waste management plants, with the majority (293) dedicated to composting.

According to a survey of 534 companies, in 2021, the sector’s turnover reached around €13.5 billion, employing over 97,000 workers. These numbers reflect a sector that contributes not only to a more circular and sustainable economy but also to job creation and support for the national economy.

Watch Ecostar technology in action with urban solid waste here.

Organic Waste

Organic waste constitutes about 40% of urban waste and requires careful management to achieve community goals and preserve the environment. The increase in quantities treated across the country, with integrated anaerobic/aerobic treatment and composting as prevalent techniques, indicates growing awareness. Nationally, about 1.3 million tons of organic material are treated in plants often located in regions different from those of production, suggesting that facilities for organic waste treatment and recovery are not evenly distributed.

A part from promoting sustainable management, organic waste opens up interesting prospects in the energy sector. In Italy, there are 27 active biomethane plants capable of producing 25,445 cubic meters per hour of biomethane.

This production is expected to increase, with Italy projecting to reach 1 billion cubic meters by 2030 from organic waste, an ambitious but feasible challenge thanks to investments and incentives provided by the National Recovery and Resilience Plan (PNRR).

Discover here how Ecostar screens treat organic waste.

Aluminum

In 2022, 73.6% of aluminum packaging introduced to the market in Italy, equivalent to 60,200 tons, was recycled. Specifically, for an annual consumption of 36 cans per capita, 33 were recycled, well surpassing the 2025 (50%) and 2030 (60%) targets. This success is attributed to the collaboration between the National Aluminum Packaging Consortium (Cial) and Italian municipalities. Currently, Cial has 243 affiliated companies, 430 contracted operators, and 246 platforms nationwide.

The recycling sector in Italy is taking significant steps towards establishing a circular and sustainable economy, with a particular focus on packaging materials which often have the highest environmental impact.

In this context, Ecostar has been actively engaged in developing highly efficient screening solutions to support the recycling market for over 26 years. Patented technologies such as DDS (Dynamic Disc Screening), HDDS (Hyper Dynamic Disc Screening), and SWAT (Screening Width Adjustment Technology) have been specifically designed and developed to handle all types of waste and recyclable materials, even the most challenging, providing essential support to the global recycling sector.

All Ecostar screens are equipped with DDS technology, allowing both stationary Hexact and mobile Hextra screens to:

  • Separate material more quickly (1m/second), using limited space and achieving productivity levels up to 200 t/h;
  • Withstand the impact of heavy materials with flat-profile disks made of Hardox;
  • Drastically reduce machine downtime and cleaning sessions through anti-wrapping and anti-clogging systems;
  • Allow operators to modify screening sections (+-30%) in real-time by varying the speed of the shafts with the help of the inverter;
  • Maintain low energy consumption with 7.5 kW motors every four meters for stationary screens, while mobile screens can be powered 100% by electricity.

If you would like to identify the most suitable screening solution for your material, leave us a message here, and one of our experts will contact you as soon as possible.