Italy, 2019 – ongoing
Plants – is an ongoing study on some Italian treatment plants of materials that can be recycled and transformed in new products, from being waste.
The quantity of WEEE (Waste from Electric and Electronic Equipment) produced globally has reached 56 million tons/year in 2020, of which 12 million tons/year are attributable to the countries of the European Union alone. Each ton contains about 200 grams of gold and, at present, only 14% of this noble material is recovered at the end of the life cycle of the various electronic products.
According to estimates made by Enea (Italian National Agency for Energy), from the treatment of 1 ton of electronic cards (those present in: PCs, tablets, smartphones and new generation appliances) it is possible to obtain 129 kg of copper, 43 kg of tin, 15 kg of lead, 0.35 kg of silver and 0.24 kg of gold, for a total value of over 10 thousand euros (at the current market price). In 2019 alone, over 343 thousand tons of WEEE were collected in Italy, corresponding to approximately 43% of the total WEEE. But this implies that about 57% of WEEE is still disposed on alternative routes (such as landfill or export abroad) that do not guarantee respect for the environment nor an effective management of resources.
Plastic waste management is one of the crucial challenges for the sustainability of humanity. Tons of plastic waste are produced every day, many of which end up “outside” the recycling or proper disposal chain. In Italy, the share of urban plastic waste that is collected correctly has been steadily increasing over the last decade. In 2018, almost 1.4 million tons of plastic, made up of 94% packaging, entered the separate collection chain. But what happens to plastic waste, once it has been sorted and thrown away? Depending on the material they are made of, they can meet three different fates: recycling, waste-to-energy or, in the worst case, landfill.
Photos are from WEEE sorting plant of STENA RECYCLING ITALY, plastic sorting plant of HERA S.p.A, plastic treatment plants of PEBO S.p.A and REPLAST GROUP S.p.A, waste-to-energy plant of HERA S.p.A.