Ecomondo 2017 on the trail of the circular economy
Strategies for preventing, monitoring and exploiting waste, new industrial processes, progress in regulation.
Domestic material consumption
The value of the Circular Economy
These are some of the focuses already scheduled for the 2017 edition of Ecomondo, running in the halls of Rimini Fiera from 7 to 10 November. From its very first edition back in October 1997, the trade fair event is distinguished by its great attention to the circular economy, also by virtue of Italy’s leading position in the sector of the green economy. The theme is more firmly on the agenda than ever, above all now that the European Environment Commission returns from approving the new package of legislation on the circular economy.
Speaking on this is MEP Simona Bonafè, who at Ecomondo in October was already reminding us that in Europe the idea is gaining ground that “the challenge of the environment and sustainability is an extraordinary opportunity and not a restrictive annoyance”. Ahead of legislation from the Commission on the matter, she demonstrated confidence that the European Union can progress “towards a more intelligent and sustainable use of the resources available to us. We can no longer,“ she reaffirmed, “construct our future around a disposable model.”
- Italian leadership
Today, Italy takes the top spot in the recycling of special waste, at 76 per cent of the volume of waste produced, a good 30 percentage points above the European average trailing at 46 percent, and heading up the top five of the continent’s most eco-friendly nations. According to the report presented at Ecomondo in October for the States General of the Green Economy, Germany today recycles 69 per cent of special waste, France 61 per cent, Spain 52 per cent and the United Kingdom 49 per cent. As far as the recycling of urban waste is concerned, Italy is among the leaders as well, but in third place, with 42 of volume recycled, behind Germany and the United Kingdom and ahead of France and Spain.
- Domestic material consumption
The figures on domestic material consumption reveal increased attention and awareness on the part of the various countries with respect to protecting the environment as well. Again as part of the report on the State of the Green Economy 2016 presented at Ecomondo, it can be observed that domestic material consumption (DMC) passed from the 7.55 billion tonnes (Gt) of 2000 to 6.64 in 2014, with a reduction of 12%. Over the same period, the value per capita reduced by 16%, passing from 15.5 to 13.1 tonnes per person.
In Italy, a country naturally disposed to cling to the few material resources that it possesses, the DMC in 2014 reached 503 Gt, dropping by no fewer than 47 percentage points with respect to 2012 (948 Gt). The same applies to individual consumption, which has reduced by 50% since the start of the millennium.
“The analysis of DMC by category,” write the editors of the report, “highlights the varying potential for reuse, recovery and recycling”.
Classification is by macro category: biomass, metallic minerals, non-metallic minerals and fossil energy materials.
In the countries of the Union, domestic consumption is dominated by non-metallic materials, which make up nearly half of the total consumption of materials in 2014, about 6 tonnes per capita, biomass and fossil energy 3.5 and 3.0 t/capita, metallic minerals 0.5. As the graph shows, the breakdown of DMC in Italy reflects the European average, with approximately 45 per cent represented by non-metallic materials.
In the graph:
Domestic material consumption by category (%): EU28 average and Italy
- The value of the Circular Economy
Four thousand five hundred billion dollar between now and 2030: the global value of the circular economy according to the estimates of Fondazione Italia Accenture, which in Italy promoted the publication of the book “Waste to Wealth - The Circular Economy Advantage”, by Peter Lacy, Jakob Rutqvist and Beatrice Lamonica.
And it appears that in Italy, according to recent estimates from ENEA – the Italian National Agency for New Technologies, Energy and Sustainable Economic Development – this model of development could create more than 500 thousand jobs.
At an international level, the European Commission estimates that eco-design, reduction in waste production and reuse of waste can generate savings of 600 billion euros for businesses – equivalent to 8 per cent of annual turnover – and reduce greenhouse emission by 450 million tonnes per year.
“For the world of business,” states the book by Lacy, Rutqvist and Lamonica, “it’s about transforming waste into wealth. And it’s important to highlight that ‘waste’, in this context, means not only discarded material, i.e. waste”, but also failure to use them completely.
According to the authors, waste occurs in each of the following ways:
• wasted resources: materials and energy that cannot be regenerated continuously, but are consumed and once used disappear forever;
• products with a wasted life cycle: they have an artificially brief working life or are eliminated even if there is still demand for these products from other users;
• products with wasted capacity: they remain unused when they could be used. Cars, for example, are generally unused for 90 per cent of their existence;
• wasted valuable components: parts, materials and energy not recovered from the discarded products that contain them and therefore not returned to circulation.
“Taken as a whole,”they stress, “this waste is equivalent to the biggest economic opportunity of our time. Finding business solutions for turning it into a resource makes sense not only from the financial point of view but also makes business and economic growth possible without increasing the need for natural resources that are increasingly limited. It would essentially let us pass from growth based on resources to a new era of growth based on efficiency. At the same time, not only waste, but the concept of waste itself would be eliminated, thanks to the awareness that each resource has a potential value beyond that of its current use.”