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Hera for the circular economy

Hera joins the CE100

The Hera Group is the second Italian company to complete the process for inclusion in the CE100 programme, which, in addition to large groups concentrated in Europe, the United States and South America, also includes institutions, universities, and small to medium-sized businesses. All share the desire to promote issues related to the circular economy, to exchange experiences, to initiate projects in partnerships and to collaborate in the field of research and development.

 
 

Since 2010 the MacArthur Foundation has been promoting the new circular economy vision: what has changed in the political and industrial environment since then? What are the triggers that have contributed the most to this change? Stefano Venier, CEO of Hera Group, interviews Ellen MacArthur.

Stefano Venier meets Ellen MacArthur
 

What is the circular economy?

It is the new paradigm for economic development where feedstock and natural resources do not conclude their useful life after their initial use but “live” longer thanks to recycling, reuse and a longer product duration (as a result also of more intelligent product design, to make repairs possible) and thanks to sharing, facilitated by the new communications technologies that enable temporary rather than permanent possession of items. The current model of development is in fact rather too often linear (extraction of resources - production - use - disposal) which leads to a continuous loss of natural resources, and consequently of economic value, which is not compatible with lasting growth at global level.

The transition towards a circular economy allows for the environmental, and consequently the social and economic, sustainability of the planet and it is a necessary objective for our future included in the UN 2030 Agenda. This is well represented also by the Ellen Mac Arthur Foundation which has been researching the best way to deal with this transition at systemic level since 2010.

Hera’s commitment

The circular economy is one of the areas in which Hera creates “shared value”, that is where value is generated for the organisation, saving natural resources (and thus costs), providing solutions for the most urgent priorities and challenges for the sustainable development of the planet. The contribution of Hera to this transition - within the territory served - is clear from the group's 2016 Sustainability Report as it is markedly ahead with respect to the 3 aims set by the European Union in 2015 regarding the circular economy: a reduction of landfilling, an increase in the overall recycling rate and in the rate of recycling of packaging. 

Hera's contribution to the transition towards a more circular economy regards both the technical cycle (non-renewable materials) and the biological cycle (renewable resources). 

Hera's commitment to the technical cycle:

  • recycling through an increase in separate waste collection in the territory served, with the addition of plastic recycling thanks to the acquisition of Aliplast;
  • reuse, thanks to numerous initiatives aimed at the reduction of waste with significant social benefits (including “Scart”, “Change the Ending”, “Ciboamico” and “Farmacoamico”).

Hera's commitment to the biological cycle:

  • production of renewable energy and high-quality compost from separate organic waste collection through anaerobic bio-digestion plants and the construction of a biorefinery which will produce bio-methane, also for automotive use, from the end of 2018.
  • the set up of experimental projects for the production of renewable energy from prunings and wastewater treatment sludge.

 
Ellen MacArthur Foundation's Circular Economy modelMantain/prolong Reuse/redistribute Renovate/repair Recycle Biogas
 
 
 
 
Mantain/prolong
  • Cambia il finale

    Change the Ending

    "Change the Ending" is the project aiming at the collection and re-use of bulky waste in a good condition. Hera, together with 20 no-profit organizations, manages the pickup service free of charge. The no-profit organizations have involved several municipalities, more than 1,100 volunteers, and have supported 360 social inclusion recruitments, 99 of which directly involved in the project. From a Circular Economy point of view, the project has generated environmental, social as well as economic value: For every Euro invested, the project has generated 1.32 Euro (SROI Index).

    In 2016
    751 tons of bulky waste in good conditions collected
    71% of it processed and re-used


  • FarmacoAmico

    FarmacoAmico

    Through FarmacoAmico project, since 2013 Hera collects medicines with an adequate conservation state and at least 6 months from expiry date, and distributes them to no-profit organizations. The project aims at preventing hazardous waste while promoting best practices in waste reduction and supporting social assistance organizations, with a consequent economic return for local administrations mainly due to reduced social assistance costs. In three years the municipalities involved have increased from six to eleven, covering 35% of the territory where Hera operates.

    In 2016
    94 pharmacies involved
    40,500 packets of medications collected and recovered (economic value of 520,000 euros)


  • CiboAmico

    CiboAmico

    Started in 2009, "Cibo Amico" is the project against food waste, that allows the collection of meals prepared but not consumed at the 5 Hera canteens. The retrieved food is donated to 6 no-profit organizations assisting people in 8 locations every day. Since the project started, more than 67,400 meals were retrieved. The corresponding saved waste amounts to more than 29 tons, circa 4.6 tons only in 2016.

    In 2016
    10,449 meals retrieved in Hera canteens
    140 people assisted every day


Reuse/redistribute
  • Cambia il finale

    Change the Ending

    "Change the Ending" is the project aiming at the collection and re-use of bulky waste in a good condition. Hera, together with 20 no-profit organizations, manages the pickup service free of charge. The no-profit organizations have involved several municipalities, more than 1,100 volunteers, and have supported 360 social inclusion recruitments, 99 of which directly involved in the project. From a Circular Economy point of view, the project has generated environmental, social as well as economic value: For every Euro invested, the project has generated 1.32 Euro (SROI Index).

    In 2016
    751 tons of bulky waste in good conditions collected
    71% of it processed and re-used


  • FarmacoAmico

    FarmacoAmico

    Through FarmacoAmico project, since 2013 Hera collects medicines with an adequate conservation state and at least 6 months from expiry date, and distributes them to no-profit organizations. The project aims at preventing hazardous waste while promoting best practices in waste reduction and supporting social assistance organizations, with a consequent economic return for local administrations mainly due to reduced social assistance costs. In three years the municipalities involved have increased from six to eleven, covering 35% of the territory where Hera operates.

    In 2016
    94 pharmacies involved
    40,500 packets of medications collected and recovered (economic value of 520,000 euros)


  • CiboAmico

    CiboAmico

    Started in 2009, "Cibo Amico" is the project against food waste, that allows the collection of meals prepared but not consumed at the 5 Hera canteens. The retrieved food is donated to 6 no-profit organizations assisting people in 8 locations every day. Since the project started, more than 67,400 meals were retrieved. The corresponding saved waste amounts to more than 29 tons, circa 4.6 tons only in 2016.

    In 2016
    10,449 meals retrieved in Hera canteens
    140 people assisted every day


Biogas
  • Within 2018, Hera is going to complete the refurbishment of the plant at S.Agata Bolognese, where the company is running a composting site, to allow the production of bio-methane. Following an investment of 30 million Euro, Hera is going to annually produce 20,000 tons of high quality natural fertilizer and 7.5 cubic metres of bio-methane, feeding the virtuous circle between food producers, home waste and territory. Organic waste will be subjected to an anaerobic bio-digestion process and then processed into biogas, to be subsequently upgraded and purified to obtain bio-methane. The solid waste remaining will be appropriately treated to become high quality compost and fertilizer. The plant is designed according to the best technologies included in the EU Circular Economy guidelines and to the local regulations ruling on the collection and treatment of organic waste.

    Fully functional
    7.5 m3/y of bio-methane from separate collection
    20,000 tons of high quality natural fertilizer


  • Biorefinery 2.0 to produce biomethane from pruning material

    Hera started targeted research to analyse the technologies to produce advanced biofuels obtained by processing grass cuttings and pruning material collected in the area. These waste materials are currently used in composting processes or are used for energy recovery but in the future, they could be used to produce bioethanol and biomethane. Both of these fuels can be considered advanced because they are produced from waste materials and not from dedicated energy crops which use land which can potentially be used for human food or animal feed To be able to obtain these fuels from ligno-cellulosic waste, pretreatments are required, such as steam explosion (a particular thermal treatment with high pressure steam) that makes the material readily degradable by bacteria, enzymes or yeasts, in anaerobic digestion processes or alcoholic fermentation.

  • Innovative projects in the integrated water service

    The Thermal Hydrolysis project is aimed at identifying new technologies to reduce of the amount of biological sludge to be disposed of at the end of the treatment process of urban waste-water, maximising the biogas that can be produced. The technologies currently identified are based on the steam explosion process (thermal treatment with high pressure steam, that makes the material readily degradable by bacteria that produces the biogas and simultaneously allows the release of intracellular water making the dehydration more efficient. The treatment may be carried out, depending on the characteristics of the treatment plants, before or after the sludge digestion step. In both cases there are two benefits: the increase in the production of biogas and the decrease of the sludge to be sent to final disposal plants.

    The recovery of biogas from the anaerobic digestion process increases the efficiency of the sludge treatment line in municipal waste-water treatment plants. The goal is to maximize the production of biogas in order to generate electricity and produce heat by cogeneration and reduce the amount of sludge for disposal. In this respect, we plan to install a dynamic densifier that will make it possible to obtain a drier mud (compared to the present situation) to send to the digestion step, thus reducing the volumes to be treated. This aspect will save heat during digestion, lengthen digestion times increasing the production of biogas and decrease the production of sludge to be sent for disposal. A cogenerator will be installed on the biogas line to produce renewable electricity and heat; these energy resources will be directly used in the plant.

Recycle
  • Aliplast: a virtuous cycle for plastic

    Aliplast: a virtuous cycle for plastic

    In early 2017, Hera acquired 40% of shares in Aliplast Group, leader in the collection, recycling and regeneration of plastic waste (in particular, polyolefin and PET). A further 40% will be acquired within March 2018 and the remaining 20% within June 2022.
    Aliplast has been the first company in Italy to integrate the full lifecycle of plastics: from environmental services of management and collection of industrial waste to the manufacturing and sale of products and packaging materials, made from the plastic recycled by the company.

    In 2016
    Over 80,000 tons/y of plastics processes by The Group


  • Il Rifiutologo (the Wasteologist)

    The Rifiutologo is a free app created by Hera to simplify the way separate collection is done in the 135 municipalities in which it provides environmental waste management services. At 31 December 2016 the app has reached 118,000 downloads.
    In 2016, for inhabitants who bring material to drop-off points, we added the capability to view discounts on waste tax, where applicable. The "environmental reporting" function proved very popular. It can be used to send a customized message or a real time picture to Hera's staff to point out a problem that affects the services performed by the company and that requires attention. After the problem has been solved, the app tells the user the date when it was taken care of. The reporting by the inhabitants is made more effective by HergoAmbiente's new information system that connects bins, vehicles and drop-off points. In 2016 the reports of emptying, cleaning of the roads and the abandoned waste were 19,750 (+89% compared to 2015); 3,728 suggestions on new types of waste to be added to the database.
    In 2016 the inhabitants of Bologna benefited by a trial of two other features of Rifiutologo, thanks to which they could view on their smartphones the position the mini underground drop-off points in the city centre, including its address and the materials that can be disposed of at each of them and view the calendar of door-to-door collection in the centre, so as to be always updated on the service.
    At 31 December 2016 the "Scan barcode", feature which recognizes materials by the barcode printed on products and shows how to properly dispose of each package, accesses an archive of 1,120,093 barcodes of the most widely used products. For packages made of multiple materials, the app can provide instructions on where to dispose of each component. If a code is not recognized, or a type of waste is missing, the inhabitant can report it via the Rifiutologo so that it can be added to the system: there were 11,850 reports of bar codes sent by the inhabitants to update the database (+45% compared to 2015). The searches carried out by scanning barcodes grew by 44% from 72,081 in 2015 to 104,081 during all of 2016.

    In 2016
    About 20,000 messages received and managed
    Over 1,1 milion barcodes in the archive


  • With Riciclandino we help the environment and schools

    Riciclandino is the project dedicated to schools that involves children and families in an environmental initiative. In fact, the more waste they separate and the more waste they take to drop-off points, the more points they obtain, giving their schools the chance to receive economic incentives. Every student is given a Riciclandino Card that includes the barcode assigned to each participating school. The student's family can use the card to dispose of waste at drop-off points, obtaining a discount on their bill, as established by the municipal regulations, as well as an incentive of the same amount for their school.
    Launched nine years ago in Ravenna, by 2016 the project had covered 41 municipalities in the provinces of Ferrara, Modena and Ravenna, and involved 361 schools and 75,890 students. In 2015 the participating schools received over Euro 60,000 of economic incentives for the activities carried out, and over 3,000 reams of paper.

    In 2016
    About 76,000 students involved
    Over 60,000 euros in prizes for schools


Renovate/repair
  • Started in 1998, SCART is a project aiming at promoting a new smart, creative and sustainable lifestyle based on giving those materials that every day become waste a new life through upcycling. The project has involved artists and designers to craft new objects and work of arts made exclusively of waste (such as furniture, decorations, musical instruments, scenic and costume designs, toys) later traded under the registered trademark. In 2013 the Web Community "Scartline" was born, a place where artists, craftsmen and designers can register for free to exhibit their creations and get in touch with potential customers. Students and arts & design institutions are also involved in many workshops and art exhibitions.

    In 2016
    130 artists, designers and architects involved
    100% new objects and artworks made from waste


 
2016 Sustainability Report embraces shared value
 
Risultati economici 2016 - Il commento del Presidente del Gruppo Hera
 
 
2016 Economics results
 
Risultati economici 2016 - Il commento del Presidente del Gruppo Hera
 
 
Corporate Film
 
Corporate film.