2017 is the year of the circular economy, a model that is increasingly gaining ground among the countries of the European Union, determined to implement a new agenda of ad hoc measures to protect the planet from all the wastes we are drowning in, due to various factors such as population growth, lack of raw materials and the evolution of production processes.
- Reduce the basis of the concept of circularity is to reduce the consumption of raw materials, designing products with long-term obsolescence and simple maintenance, with lower costs;
- Reuse the re-use of raw materials is the first major life cycle of products, so as not to lose the energy spent to generate that product;
- Recycling last step to recover the matter.
Despite the fact that the circular economy is not a recent concept – it dates back to the ’70s, when academics and businessmen began to talk about it – in reality it is a natural process to which we must find inspiration.
According to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation – named after its founder and president, Ellen MacArthur, who broke off her sailing career in 2009 to devote herself full-time to her battle for the environment – the term defines «an economy designed to regenerate by itself. In a circular economy the flows of materials are of two types: biological ones, able to be reintegrated in the biosphere, and technical ones, destined to be re-evaluated without entering the biosphere. Circular economy is therefore a system in which all activities, starting with extraction and production, are organized in such a way that someone’s waste becomes resources for someone else. In the linear economy, on the other hand, once the consumption ends, the cycle of the product that becomes waste ends, forcing the economic chain to continually resume the same pattern: extraction, production, consumption, disposal»
Never before in recent years has the need to speak of something different felt, precisely because the current productive economic model is now saturated, ready to be replaced. Engaged in this field since 2015, the European Commission, in this year, has approved a circular economy standard package that will oblige member countries to recycle at least 70% of urban waste and 80% of packaging waste, in addition to prohibition to throw biodegradable and recyclable ones into landfills. Rules that should come into force from 2030 and are now being examined by the European Parliament. MEPs will have to find a balance on the concepts of “waste” and “recycling” and harmonize a system that includes countries such as Germany and Austria, which already recycle 66% of waste, but also the Czech Republic that does not it reaches 30%.
It is an economy that protects the environment and saves on production and management costs, producing profits. And in this Italy is in a good position in the European framework. From the document of the Ministry of the Environment and the protection of the territory and the sea “Towards a model of circular economy for Italy” – available online – as regards the waste sector, urban and special production is equal to 178 millions of tons. On the other hand, with regard to recycling processes, the potential to make the Italian economy increasingly circular is increasing. The European Commission provides 580,000 jobs, of which only in Italy 190,000, with annual savings of 72 billion euros for European companies.
The data on the secondary raw materials generated starting from the separate collection are interesting. Considering paper, wood, glass, plastics and organic materials, around 10.6 million tonnes were put back on the market in 2014 (over 60% for material recovery), an increase of 2% in 2015 based on preliminary data.
Focusing on the Circular Economy therefore means stimulating the creativity of Italian SMEs in terms of the economic exploitation of the reuse of materials. A strategic input of great importance with the transition from a need to an opportunity.