62.5%
sorted waste
over an area with 3.1 million
inhabitants
93%
waste recovered
the amount of sorted waste
recuperated, going towards
a circular economy
150
thousand tons of CO2 avoided
with the plastic recycled
by Aliplast

Special waste: similar-to-municipal waste, hazardous and non-hazardous

When one talks about waste, usually municipal waste and especially household rubbish immediately comes to mind. However, in reality, household rubbish does not even account for 20% of all waste produced.

Indeed, in Italy, where a total over 160 million tonnes of waste is produced each year, more than 130 million is special waste, i.e. waste generated by production activities, while around 30 million tonnes are municipal waste (household and non-household waste). In Emilia-Romagna, out of over 11.4 million tonnes of waste produced in total, around 2.9 million are municipal waste.

Municipal and special waste production by province (thousands of tonnes)</captionA

Area

Municipal waste

Non-hazardous special waste (excluding C&D, construction and demolition)

Hazardous special waste

Total special waste (excluding non-hazardous C&D)

Total waste

Modena

427

1827

70

1,898

2,325

Bologna

572

1156

169

1,324

1,896

Ferrara

234

734

47

781

1,015

Ravenna

282

1195

153

1,347

1,629

Forlì-Cesena

280

552

30

582

862

Rimini

245

276

65

341

586

Total of provinces in Hera’s service area

2,040

5,740

534

6,273

8,313

Piacenza

188

371

106

477

665

Parma

255

782

33

815

1,070

Reggio Emilia

377

1013

41

1,054

1,431

Total Emilia-Romagna

2,856

7,905

714

8,619

11,479

Source: MW: ISPRA, National Centre for waste recycling – Waste Cadastre, SW: ARPAE, Emilia-Romagna waste management report. 2015 data for special waste and 2016 data for municipal waste (most recent data available)

Despite its quantitative predominance, special waste becomes almost invisible in the collective imagination as it is far removed from daily life and also because of the different way it must be treated, by law. In fact, municipal waste must be collected and disposed of in the Region in which it is generated at a cost, for the general public, that is pre-set by the regulatory authorities. Conversely, special waste must be disposed of by and at the expense of its producer and therefore companies use the operators that best cater to their needs, also economically speaking.

Special waste is therefore often transported quite far from where it is actually produced: to other provinces, other regions or even abroad. Over the years, this lower visibility, often coupled with a lower degree of traceability, has been reflected in strategic planning deficiencies for disposal plants, and unfortunately this tends to lead to illegal forms of disposal, which for years has filled the coffers of the so-called environmental mafia.

The Emilia-Romagna Regional Government, in its Regional Waste Management Plan approved in spring 2016, has identified and verified the need for special waste disposal and treatment capacity, comparing the demand with the capacity of existing plants to meet this need or equivalent quantities. With DGR 987/2017 the same Region then updated the assessment of the needs, that increased especially for the disposal in landfills of special hazardous and non-hazardous waste.

Under Italian regulations, waste is classified on the basis of the place it was generated (home or production environment) and not on its physical, chemical or product-related characteristics.

Legislative Decree 152/2006 classifies waste as municipal or special on the basis of its origin and only downstream of this initial classification, according to its level of hazardousness, it is defined as hazardous or non-hazardous.

Municipal waste is household waste (inclusive of bulky waste) produced by homes, waste from cleaning streets and other public places, plant waste from green areas and any type of waste dumped or present in public areas, including beaches and riverbanks, the production of which cannot be traced to a specific source. Also classed as municipal waste is non-hazardous special waste originating in premises and places not used for dwelling, that is similar-to-municipal waste in terms of quality and quantity according to the Municipal Regulations (or according to the regulations of supra-municipal authorities – Atersir) on the basis of the general guidelines set by the State; this waste is special in terms of origin but, after being ruled similar-to-municipal, it is handled (collected or disposed of) together with domestic municipal waste and subject to the corresponding tariffs or taxes (now called TARI).

Special waste is waste from agricultural, construction, artisan, industrial, sanitary, commercial and services activities, waste coming from waste recovery and disposal activities (therefore also the waste coming from treatment of non-separate municipal solid waste), water treatment sludge, mining or decontamination.

Waste is classified as hazardous or non-hazardous depending on the substances it contains. Hazardous municipal waste is made up of domestic waste that contains levels of pollutants or toxic substances such that it has to be disposed of in special plants (e.g. pharmaceuticals and batteries). Hazardous special waste is generated by production activities and contains the aforementioned pollutants or toxic substances.

In June 2015, the European and national criteria used to classify the hazard characteristics to waste were updated with reference to the regulation on criteria for hazardous substances (the so-called Regulation (EC) 1272/2008 on Classification, Labelling and Packaging). EU Regulation 1357/2014 applies to the assignment of HP hazard properties (except HP14) and Decision 2014/995/EU with the new European waste list (EER, ex CER) already applied and consolidated. EU Regulation 2017/997 entered in force on 5 July 2018 for the attribution of the hazard property HP 14.

For all these new developments, the Group has implemented and developed specific activities to adapt and update the classification and homologation criteria for the waste it manages.

The line between municipal waste and special waste is therefore set by the regulations defined by national law and applied at optimal municipal and/or area level.

Until the national standard is issued, each municipality may independently define the criteria for identifying waste from production, commercial and service activities as being similar-to-municipal waste. The more waste that is similar-to-municipal, the less special waste is left to be handled by the private sector with the risk of lower levels of control and traceability. In Hera Group’s service area, and in Emilia-Romagna in general, there is a high level of production of similar-to-municipal waste: the waste handled by the public service is estimated to include 50% waste of domestic origin and 50% waste of non-residential origin, i.e. similar-to-municipal special waste. It is also estimated that there are around 1.5 million tonnes of similar-to-municipal special waste that due to its characteristics (i.e. non-hazardous) is not processed as similar-to-municipal because it is produced by a single manufacturer in quantities above the set limit. Unlike the method used in Italy, in Europe the classification of waste is more directly related to its level of hazardousness and to the type of treatment it undergoes.

 

Non-hazardous waste

Hazardous waste

Municipal waste

Residential waste (dry and organic)

Waste from the cleaning of streets and other public places

Waste similar to municipal waste

Batteries, lead accumulators

Environmentally harmful packaging

TVs, monitors, fridges, air conditioning units and lamps

Mineral oils

Special waste

Waste from agricultural and agro-industrial activities

Inert materials and bricks (from construction and demolition businesses)

Commercial and industrial packaging

Plastics and glass processing waste

Artisanal and industrial

Coming from waste recovery and disposal operations, including municipal waste

Petrochemical and pharmaceutical production waste

Metallic waste

Sludge from reclamation activities

Used oils

Medical and veterinary research waste