Circular Economy in Italy

 Policy and legislative framework

Since the Italian EU Presidency in 2014, Italy is playing a very active role in contributing to the policy discussion on circular economy transition at national, European and international level.

As indicated by the European Environment Agency (EEA – Circular Economy in Europe 2016) “economic resilience, ecological and social development will continue to be influenced by a wide range of interdependent global political, social, environmental, economic and technology”. In this context, the spread of a new “circle” model of production and consumption is an important strategic tool to implement the global sustainability goals. Several international organizations have already started important actions in terms of efficiency and sustainability of resources to which Italy is contributing since many years.

Within the United Nations, for example, the Ministry of Environment has actively supported the integration of the principles of sustainability across the whole process leading to the adoption, in September 2015, of the Agenda 2030 for sustainable development. It sets an inter-sectorial  vision in which the efficient use of resources and promotion of sustainable patterns of production and consumption are priority areas for action.

At G7 level, the German Presidency has launched a major initiative for efficient and sustainable use of resources (“Alliance for Resources”) which was then adopted at the Elmau summit. The Italian Ministry of the Environment is actively involved in the initiative together with universities, research centers and agencies (including the ENEA), and the private sector depending on the theme (industrial symbiosis, sustainable procurement, environmental footprint). This Alliance commits the G7 countries to continue the initiative in the future. The Japanese Presidency has given new impetus to the 3R Initiative – reduce reuse recycle, adopted in Kobe in 2008, with the Toyama Framework for sustainable management of materials, which has been adopted at the last G7 Environment. Italy will take the lead next year with the task of following up with such intensive work, in close collaboration with the UNEP International Resource Panel and the OECD.

The Italian Ministry for the Environment, Land and Sea is also engaged in international and bilateral cooperation with several Mediterranean countries and China with specific circular economy projects and the sustainable use of resources.

Given the transversal nature and the interdependence of economic, social and environmental aspects of circular economy, Italy is adopting a shared and synergic cross-sectorial approach to unlock at all levels the Circular Economy potential.

The “Collegato Ambiente” (Environmental Annex) to the Financial-Stability Law can be considered a strategic tool to support at national level the transition towards circular economy. It entered into force on 2nd February 2016 under the name of Measures for green economy and resource efficiency. It contains several measures for improving the sustainable use of resources through, inter alia:

– bioenergy

– green public procurement

– environmental footprint

– sustainable consumption and production

– market for recycled products

– circular waste management

– soil protection and water management

– natural capital and ecosystem services accounting systems

Concerning in particular the market for recycled products, Italy is identifying incentives for enterprises, local authorities and NGOs to support the purchase of products made with secondary raw materials, but also specific measures to increase waste prevention, separate collection and recycling, bio-waste composting, take-back mechanisms for reuse. In the field of GPP (Green Public Procurement), the use of the “minimum environmental criteria” for electronic devices, lighting, supply  of paper, cleaning products, catering, sustainable construction materials has become mandatory. Furthermore, on the basis of the successful experience of the Italian Environmental Footprint Program launched in 2011, a national voluntary scheme (so called Made Green in Italy) in line with EC Recommendation 2013/179/EU (PEF) will be set up (through a national regulation) to increase the competitiveness of the Italian eco-products on national and international markets.

Other policy and legislative instruments recently adopted or under development are the followings:

– Ecodesign decree (n.140, 10 June 2016)

– Food waste prevention law (n.166, 19 August 2016)

– Sustainable production and consumption action plan

– National Sustainable Development Strategy updated on the basis of Agenda 2030 – SDGs and on Materials & Energy Flows Analysis

– A comprehensive Green Act to foster decarbonization of the economy, efficient and sustainable use of resources, financing for sustainable development.

At a preliminary stage, Italy has identified the following priorities to work on:

– improve synergies and exchange of materials, resources and energy between public and private entities (for example, through industrial symbiosis models);

– promote eco-innovation in products, processes and services and in particular the innovative eco-design (for durability, recyclability, reparability and environmental and social sustainability);

– stimulate the market for products and quality recycled materials including through a wider use of green public procurement;

– help consumers to make more sustainable choices;

environmental tax reform;

– safeguard and foster the international competitiveness of eco-efficient Italian SMEs.

The Italian Ministry for the Environment has launched an environmental best practice sharing tool – “Knowledge platform” ( with the support of EU funding for environmental protection and climate action. The objective of the “Knowledge Platform” is to promote the replication of best practices in the fields of resource efficiency, waste and energy, climate change, nature and biodiversity, water, urban environment, soil management. The Platform consists of a database of projects co-financed in Italy by EU programmes such as LIFE, CIP Eco Innovation, CIP IEE and FP7. The website has been designed to stimulate networking among those who have developed the best practices and potential replicators of these actions.

Finally, in order to launch a policy dialogue aimed at identifying the most promising solutions to unlock the Circular Economy potential in Italy and abroad, a National Study on CE and Resource Efficiency is under finalization with the technical support of ENEA.

More info and Best practices