In 2018, the Earth Overshoot Day, i.e. the date by which humanity consumes all the resources produced by the planet for the whole year, fell on 1 August, which is more than 4 months earlier compared to the 70s. Water, wood, metals, building materials, animal species for our food supply… man is becoming increasingly insatiable and even if we could save that many resources to gain 4 and a half days every year, we would not be able to catch up until 2050.
Looking at it from an economic point of view, it is as if we had an unsettled account with the future and very few possibilities of repaying the debt. And yet, some signs of hope are emerging, starting from the bold and impudent initiatives of many young people who refuse to mortgage their future, to the investments by virtuous companies in innovative solutions to contribute to climate change mitigation and accelerate the transition to the green economy.
As adults we have the responsibility not only to provide an answer, but to implement a concrete and immediately viable action plan and turn words into action as, this time, procrastination is no longer a valid option. Without doubt, the measures on the circular economy adopted by the European Union go in the right direction, but this is not enough. For our part, as primary national collective scheme for the sustainable management of technological waste – an excellent source for recovering the materials deriving from the reuse and recycling processes, our mission is to enable new circular value chains. To help in this process, it would be very helpful to have the institutions’ support in terms of regulatory simplification and streamlining of administrative burdens, both as regards the strengthening of controls and the implementation of robust and effective treatment standards.
The year just ended saw the introduction of an important innovation: the entry into force of the ”open scope” in 2018, which entailed a significant a change of perspective by reconfiguring the terms of inclusion of electrical and electronic equipment at the end of its life. This development, accompanied by very encouraging signs in the collection rates of e-waste in Italy, will certainly have positive impacts in social and economic terms, with the creation of at least 10,000 jobs, over 110 million Euros of economic value associated with the avoided emissions, 1,250 million Euros of savings in raw materials purchasing, in addition to a net reduction in CO2 emissions of 2.2 million tons per year.
These findings are important* and show how the waste recycling and material recovery industry – if in a circular economy framework – can represent a strategic development lever. Promising steps along a road that is still very long, but that will allow us to build a better future.
Which is not tomorrow, but today.
* Remedia-Bocconi study data, 2025-2030 estimated forecast, “Challenges and prospects of the national WEEE management system”, 2017.