Waste & Recycling


Que Sera Sera

If your view of waste management in Italy is clouded by the headline news about the crisis in the City of Naples, you may be surprised to learn that the country has some of the most advanced waste man...

If your view of waste management in Italy is clouded by the headline news about the crisis in the City of Naples, you may be surprised to learn that the country has some of the most advanced waste management systems in the world. In May, I participated in a trade mission to Italy, to learn about their municipal waste management systems.

The first and most lasting impression I have of Italy’s waste management facilities is their architecture. They’re beautiful! Waste management facilities in Italy are locations of civic pride and they’re designed to complement the surrounding countryside.

The second impression I had was how staff at these facilities dress. Impeccably! Suits, ties, dress shoes, designer watches are all standard attire for professionals at the landfills, transfer stations, and waste-toenergy (WTE) facilities in Italy. To me, it showed the pride and professionalism the people working at these facilities have in their vocation.

Fashion and design aside, approximately 32.5 million tonnes of municipal solid waste is generated in Italy per year. As for waste separation, the national average is 25.8 per cent. The European Union waste diversion goal is 40 per cent. As a member of the European Union, Italy is committed to diverting waste from landfill. As such, the current 50 WTE facilities will increase to over 100 within the next 10 years.


The City of Milan has an integrated waste management system for the 740,000 tonnes of waste generated each year. Separate waste collection of recyclables, organics, bulky waste, e-waste, and household hazardous waste is 41.7 per cent of the total.

The 58.3 per cent of the residual non-recyclable waste collected in Milan is separated into dry and wet fractions at the Silla 2 WTE plant within the city. The wet fraction is sent to biological stabilization plants and the dry fraction is combusted at a temperature above 850 degree C.

Built in 2001 by Amsa, the Silla 2 WTE plant has a capacity of 450,000 tons per year. It cost $150 million Euros to build, and the cost for treatment is approximately $100 Euros per tonne.

Air emission controls on the Silla 2 plant include an electrostatic precipitator that removes fly ash, a sodium bicarbonate system to remove hydrogen chloride, a tube filter that removes dust, and a selective catalytic reduction (SCR) system for the reduction of nitrogen oxides.

The 62,000 MWh/year of heat generated from burning the waste is used for district heating. The district heating network supplies approximately 15,000 households. The facility also produces electricity to power 100,000 homes.


Venice is known for its canals and gondolas. On a daily basis, the city of 50,000 permanent residents receives up to 200,000 tourists. The result is a daily fleet of 60 boats filled with compacted municipal waste that travel from the city to the mainland for treatment and disposal.

Of the 275,000 tonnes of municipal waste generated in Venice each year, 46,500 tonnes is composted, 48,000 tonnes is incinerated, and 156,000 tonnes is utilized as refuse-derived fuel (RDF). The remainder is sent directly to landfill.

Much of the RDF is used at cement plants to supplant coal use. Three-years of test data has shown that a cement plant that utilizes eight per cent of RDF as fuel has the same emissions as a facility the uses 100 per cent coal. Cement plants in Italy that do use RDF as fuel must adhere to stricter emission standards than if they only burned coal.


Many Canadians will remember Torino has the host city of the 1998 Winter Olympics. It will soon be the home to one of the largest and most advanced WTE facility in the world.

The WTE will be a regional facility that will serve the one million residents from the city of Torino and one million residents from 52 surrounding municipalities. Much of the 421,000 tonnes of waste that arrive at the facility each year will do so by rail. The facility is scheduled to begin operation in 2011.

The plant was conceived through the Province of Turin’s waste plan. The focus of the plan is to achieve 50 per cent recycling and 50 per cent WTE. A panel of experts screened various thermal technologies and chose a combustion mobile grill system.

The estimated cost of the WTE is $260 million Euros. The tipping rate at the facility is budgeted at $91 euros per tonne. The facility will generate electricity for 150,000 homes and enough to heat for 14,000 homes.

John Nicholson, M. Sc., P. Eng., is a consultant based in Toronto, Ontario. Contact John at john.nicholson@ebccanada.com

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