Recycling, from domestic habits to industrial policy
Only the recovery and reuse of raw materials can save Italy from supply difficulties. To achieve this goal, however, the approval of a national law on the End of Waste is required
Perhaps not everyone knows that in Italy there are plants for the production of electricity with a total capacity of 1.2 GW powered by palm oil. If you are among those who have never heard of this, you are more than justified: for several years these plants have in fact been shut down, despite their construction being fairly recent and involving an investment of around 2 billion euros.
The problem is that palm oil – and here we turn a blind eye to the necessity of using it as a fuel – has reached prices that no longer make its use for energy production profitable. The cosmetics industry has in fact begun to use it increasingly massively, causing its cost to skyrocket. And this despite the fact that the western confectionery industry has reduced its use (because it is a saturated fat, that is, a fat “that harms”).
Palm oil, which comes largely from Indonesia and Malaysia, is a perfect example of the tensions that commodities are experiencing and the damage that can result from them. Indeed, because oil and gold, although by far the best known, are certainly not the only ones. Indeed, the commodities whose trends are followed only by insiders are precisely those where the imbalance of supply and demand, obviously in favour of the former, is making its effect felt more dramatically.
Relying on the free international market for the supply of raw materials has now become a strategy that is simply too risky and that in some cases just doesn’t work, as in the case of palm oil. The approach must be different and, strange as it may seem, we already have a solution at hand. It’s called “recycling”.
What until today has been seen as a virtuous habit of the consumer to reduce environmental pollution must become an industrial strategy for the survival of Western economies. A strategy that is anything but simple to implement and which is not given the priority it deserves.
What is still missing in the industrial field to see the encouraging results that are already being recorded in household separate waste collection is an efficient and certain regulatory framework. In fact, not only are there no common rules at the level of the European Union, but even every Italian region does its own thing.
The law on the End of Waste, or the rule that establishes the conditions under which a waste product ceases to be such at the end of the recycling process and can therefore be put back on the market, must become a priority of the national government. The launch has been awaited for far too long. In fact, it is unthinkable that something that is still a waste product in Milan is no longer one in Rome and as such can be resold. Moreover, with inexplicable differences between waste and waste and even with authorisations to operate ad hoc granted to individual companies.
In such a context, the operation of companies in the recycling sector is extremely slow, complex and expensive. It goes without saying that investments in new plants are practically zero because no good entrepreneur would venture into initiatives for which it is not materially possible to estimate the returns.
Instead, this type of investment should not only be encouraged but also incentivised because, as the case of Evergreen has shown (as if it were still needed), a ship grounded sideways is enough to send the world market for raw materials into fibrillation.