The urban waste recycling chain contributes towards employment growth

18 November 2016

Research into employment in the recycling sector conducted by CONAI reveals that in a realistic development of the recycling chain about 90,00 new jobs can be created by 2020 Rimini, 28th August 2014 – The study “The occupational and economic effects of the development of the urban waste recycling chain”, conducted by CONAI (National Packaging Consortium) in collaboration with Althesys was presented today at the “What Guarantee of Creating Jobs?” conference attended by Giuliano Poletti, Minister of Labour and Social Policies. The objective of the study was to assess what effects meeting European 2020 targets, namely recycling 50% of urban and domestic waste, will have on our country’s employment and economy. Urban waste management today The picture of urban waste management in Italy today is mixed: at a national level about a third of urban waste is recycled and just over 40% ends up in landfill; in the North, where the recovery chain is highly developed, just 22% of waste goes in landfill whereas in the Centre and the South the figure exceeds 60%. Development to 2020 The study simulates two possible scenarios. The first, which is theoretical and not very realistic, predicts that 50% of urban waste will be recycled in the three macro-areas of the North, Centre and South, and a significant reduction of waste that ends up in landfill. The second scenario, defined as cautious, takes into account the different starting points of the three areas and realistically assesses their possible development; following this framework, it is possible to predict an average national urban waste recycling rate of 50%, with lows of 40% and highs of 61%. In this scenario, landfill would be reduced by 4 million tonnes by 2020, i.e. by 20% compared with 2013 in southern-central Italy and by 10% in the north. Which initiatives will increase recycling? The study puts forward a number of initiatives aimed at increasing the development of recycling, such as industrialising the chain, introducing funding systems, investing in research and development both in relation to collection and selection as well as the recycling phase, and adopting tools and initiatives favouring the consumption of green products. The effects on employment Meeting EU waste management targets could reap consistent benefits in terms of employment. According to the cautious scenario, there will be an additional (to the net employment lost from other sectors, e.g. landfills) circa 76,400 staff employed in the recycling chain (collection of separate waste, transportation, selection and recycling) and circa 12,600 employed in the plants (selection, composting, intermediate recycling and thermal treatments), totalling circa 89,000 new jobs nationally. The effect on employment, in both scenarios, is proportionally higher in central and southern Italy, particularly with regards to separate waste collection activities given these regions have historically lagged behind in these areas. Conversely, the higher concentration of recycling companies in central-northern Italy results in a higher rise in employment for these activities. The study estimates that the increase in jobs will be lower, circa 60,000, following the hypothesis that the increasing intensity of the workforce in collection activities in the Centre and South will adjust to standards in the North. Overall impacts on the economy The incremental turnover of the chain (referring to separate collection, transportation, selection, production of semiprocessed products for recycling, composting, thermal treatments) in the cautious scenario has been valued at circa 6.2 billion, investments in infrastructure (selection plants, production of semiprocessed products, composting and thermal treatments) will amount to circa 1.7 billion, while additional value has been quantified at circa 2.3 billion. The net economic profits may be considerable, i.e. the profits generated by the CONAI system and costs. It is worth bearing in mind that a previous study by Althesys has valued net profits of circa 12.7 billion euros from 1998 (the year CONAI was founded) to 2012 for the recycling of packaging from urban waste alone.