Policy issues for composting development: notes from Italy

Composting in Italy is growing fast. More than 600 Municipalities are running source separation programs for food waste at present. As a consequence, the number of composting plants for source separated materials is steadily growing: 72 industrial composting sites were recorded in November 1998. This figure does not include those small sites (less than 1000 Mg/y) that compost only yard waste.

The main cause for such a huge growth in quality composting has to be found in recent environmental policy developments. Decree 22/97, the National Waste Management Law (Feb. 1997) claims for a recycling goal of 35 % to be accomplished - on a provincial basis - within 2003. Source separation of the organic waste is not compulsory. Still, food waste source separation gets a need to reach the medium-term material recovery goal of 35 %. In effect, intensive collection of dry recyclables (paper, glass, plastic, etc.) does not allow local authorities - in general - to meet such a goal (it has to be noted that home composting and construction and demolition debris are not included into the total material recovery figure). Thus, most Regions and Provinces are including a broad promotion of food waste source separation in their Waste Management Plans.

Food waste source separation has already allowed some Provinces, Milan Province included (some 190 Municipalities, > 3500000 inhabitants), to meet the 2003 recycling goal (35%), with many municipalities overpassing 60 %. The use of specific tools and systems for door-to-door food waste source separation has shown to be effective with relevance to quantity and quality of food waste collected, and very cost-competitive.

The collection of yard waste is even more developed, above all in some regions such as Lombardia and Piemonte (some 3000 municipalities, 13000000 inhabitants) where it has been made compulsory since 1994, Emilia Romagna and Veneto.

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