Which laws govern plastic recycling? Everything you need to know about Italian and European rules
Plastic recycling, in Italy and in Europe, is regulated through a series of rules whose aim is to protect public health, but also to encourage plastic recovery and recycling practices, in order to save resources, limit emissions of polluting gases and protect the environment.
The European Rule
The EU rules on the plastic recycling are part of a global project that aims to reduce CO2 emissions and limit the production of disposable plastic products. The European Union, therefore, is willing on the one hand to work to educe the amount of waste produced, and on the other hand to encourage its recycling, in order to allow the eliminated plastic to have a second life, passing from a linear economy (based on the extraction of raw materials, the production of goods, the consumption of products and finally the disposal of waste) to a new model of circular economy, in which waste is not simply eliminated but becomes a raw material for further production cycles.
The European directives on waste management – and plastic recycling in particular – were approved on 30 May 2018, and all European states were given a certain period of time was granted (up to 5 July 2020) to transpose them. The main directives in this area are:
- • 2018/850 / EU, referring to landfills
- • 2018/851 / EU, referring to waste treatment
- • 2018/852 / EU, referring to packaging
These rules establish that, by 2035, at least 65% of municipal waste produced in Europe will have to be treated in recycling plants, while landfill disposal will have to decrease in parallel until it does not exceed 10% by weight of all waste produced. As regards plastic materials, in particular,, all European countries should get to recycle at least 65% of packaging by 2025, and 70% by 2030.
Other rules, approved in 2019, state that:
- • by 2021 the production of some disposable plastic products (plates, cutlery, straws …) for which valid alternatives already exist on the market must stop
- • plastic bottles must be collected separately from other types of plastic waste; by 2025 it is necessary that the bottles collected separately are at least 77% of all those placed on the market each year, and by 2029 this percentage must rise to 90%
- • from 2025, tall plastic bottles must contain at least 25% recycled plastic (and in 2030 the percentage will rise to 30%)
The Italian Rule
Italian laws on plastic recycling refer to European rules, and evolve in parallel with the latter ones. From 2006 to 2020 the so-called “Environmental Code” (Legislative Decree 152/2006) was in force, which established some fundamental principles in the part relevant to waste management, including:
- The approach to waste must aim at its correct management and recycling, without focusing only on landfill disposal processes. Waste management must be based on a precise hierarchy: first of all, it is necessary to aim at the prevention of waste production, then at the preparation for the reuse, and then to recycling, energy recovery and – only in the last resort – disposal.
- the principles to refer to in the treatment of waste are those of precaution, prevention, sustainability and cooperation between all the parties involved in the waste management chain.
These principles are also the base of the “New environmental code” (Legislative Decree 116/2020), approvato nel approved in September 2020, which indicates the recycling targets that our country aims to achieve within the next few years:
- Riciclo del 55% dei rifiuti urbani entro il 2025, del 60% entro il 2030 e del 65% entro il 2035
- 50% recycling of plastic packaging by 2025 and 55% by 2030
- 60% recycling of packaging (of any material) by 2025 and 65% by 2030
The Italian legislation also discourages the use of plastics and other non-recyclable materials and provides tax relief for companies that purchase products made with recycled plastic, paper or aluminium.. Similarly, the purchase of biodegradable and compostable packaging is encouraged. Italian companies are also advised to limit the use of disposable products and to adopt separate collection systems.
Besides to the national laws there are also the rules developed by the UNIPLAST technical commission (as the UNO 10667-1: 2017 standard), which classify the primary-secondary plastic materials obtained from the recovery and recycling of plastic waste and establish the requirements that these materials must have, the methods for their recycling and possible uses after recycling.