Paper and Board Collection, Recycling, and Recovery in Italy in 2022

The primacy of the circular paper and board packaging economy was confirmed in 2022: the target set by the European Union for 2025 was surpassed with a rate above 80%, and a gradual approach to the final surpassing of the 85% target set for 2030 is confirmed.

This figures point out to undisputed success in a year of full operation for all the parties to the pipeline - from the citizens engaged in collection to the final processing and marketing of new paper and board products.

With a system that is by now sound and consolidated, the focus is on maximizing the impact expected from the resources of the National Recovery and Resilience Plan (NRRP), within the framework of the specific measure for the paper sector as a leading one, also capable to drive other industries.

More than 60% of the funds are allocated to the development of paper and board recycling plants in southern Italy. These resources add up to a dedicated plan developed by Comieco to support and assist Cities in southern Italy with extraordinary investments for an amount of 3.5 million EUR.

The system-related results reported above were achieved in just a few months characterized by different phases with Southden and unexpected variations of economic indexes (production data, consumptions, prices), whose impact was mitigatedand offset with the tools provided for by the Technical Annex.

The Consortium’s operations allowed the appropriate management of faster and faster cycles connected with an unstable and extremely flexible socioeconomic environment.

The strong impact of inflation on raw materials, soaring energy prices in the first half of the year, the decline of paper demand, connected with the decrease of consumptions in the second half of the year, were the main issues we had to address in these months. And we can also see their impact on local data about the collection of paper and mixed waste.

Overall urban waste production is declining significantly. As to separate paper and board collection, projections point out to a slight improvement vs. 2021, however in a varying direction, if the results of the individual regions are considered.

The sum of positive and negative data results into an overall volume above 3.6 million tons (+20thousand tons vs. 2021) and a yield per inhabitant/year of 61.5 kg. In accordance with the principle of market subsidiarity, Comieco managed a total of 2 million tons, i.e. 20% of volumes less than in 2021.

This is the result of the reduction of the household flow that the Cities resolved to recycle outside the agreements in a context (early 2022) of high prices of paper for recycling. Collection was globally ensured in the Italian Cities via the contracts in force, with the Consortium allocating resources for more than 183 million EUR, plus 41 million EUR for in-plant services for integrated contracts.

While packaging production is confirmed at the top level of 2022 (5.3 million tons), the domestic use of paper for recycling is reduced and exports have resumed their upward trend.

The navigator is set on the same destination - increase and improve collection. Doing this requires filling the gap between the South and the Centre/North of the Country. This project is under way, but needs to be supported and boosted as much as possible.

Milestones include, among other things, the development of collection and recycling of beverage cartons (60% target by 2025), alongside other composite paper and board materials; the development of separate collection in fast food distribution, in the large bags business, in major events; and the Plan for the South to improve qualitative and quantitative performance.

The resources allocated by the Plan are close to 130 million EUR to support 46 approved project; these amounts add up to the investments planned by the sector for a total of almost 500 million EUR.

Investments are intended to improve capture, quality, and processing capabilities and, more generally, efficiency along the pipeline, while reducing average costs.

The main goal is to capture those tons of paper and board that still end up in landfills - no less than 800thousand, according to estimates, including 440thousand in the South. These numbers provide both a warning and a stimulus.

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