Italy Plans to Incinerate More Waste

ROME, Italy, September 26, 2002 (ENS) - The share of Italian waste being incinerated is too low and must be quadrupled for the country to comply with existing legislation, according to experts from industry, local authorities and the environment agency meeting in Milan last week.

Despite making good progress in recycling and re-use, Italy is struggling to comply with self-imposed targets for reduction of waste landfilling. More than 70 percent of Italian waste is still being sent to landfill, in breach of national and European Union legislation.

Under the so-called Ronchi decree of 1997, only inert and treated waste plus incinerator ash should have been allowed to go to landfills from January 2000. The deadline was subsequently put back to July 2001, and then again on August 22 as it became clear that it could not be met.


Italy's AGAC Reggio Emilia incinerator (Photo courtesy The Chlorophiles)
Italy currently incinerates only seven percent of its waste, against a European Union average of more than 20 percent.

"There is wide consensus that, at a strategic level, incineration with energy recovery is the next big step we need to take," an official told reporters. He added that a target share of 27 percent was seen as realistic in the medium term.

The Italian environment ministry is said to be ready to issue new policy guidelines paving the way for a significant increase in waste incineration, and empowering local authorities to manage waste as they see fit.

Green Party Member of Parliament Marco Lion said in a statement today that a government move towards incineration would show "contempt for the environment and public health."

Italy's Green Party blames the government for failing to put into place an "adequate system of waste recovery, recycling and disposal" in order to achieve the landfill target.

New provisions allowing local authorities to overcome public opposition to incinerators may become necessary if incineration is to make rapid progress, the official pointed out.

The need to increase "social acceptance" of incineration emerged as a key element in a pro-incineration study released last winter.

Incinerators convert combustible materials mainly to carbon dioxide and steam. But they also create toxic by-products, known as "products of incomplete combustion" which can be more toxic per unit of weight than the original wastes.

Incineration of anything, including garbage and hazardous chemical wastes, produces fine particles that can lodge deep in the lungs with harmful health effects.

When polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and other chlorine containing compounds are incinerated, toxic dioxins are created in the fire, particularly if temperatures are kept too low. Dioxins and similar toxic chemical compounds accumulate in fatty tissue, increasing in concentration at each successive level of the food chain.

Although expensive scrubbers and filters can reduce toxic emissions to below legal limits, they also concentrate toxins in ash. Landfilled ash and contaminated filters can pose greater threats to groundwater than the original wastes.


{Published in cooperation with ENDS Environment Daily, Europe's choice for environmental news. Environmental Data Services Ltd, London. Email:}