Ronchi bids to boost Italian waste recycling

Environment minister promises tax measures at launch of national "recycling week"

Italy could improve its trade balance by euros 1bn (ITL2 trillion) by recycling more waste, Italian environment minister Edo Ronchi said last week. The minister said he was planning a package of measures to be included in the 2001 national budget to encourage firms to recycle more paper, glass, steel and other materials used for industrial purposes, notably packaging.

"We are considering including tax incentives to encourage higher recycling rates," Mr Ronchi said. Introduction of any fiscal measures to boost recycling and use of recycled materials, especially a cut in sales tax would be subject to EU scrutiny, he cautioned.

"By ecologically sound recycling practices, we can set a virtuous spiral in motion that will cut pollution and save on the materials we import," Mr Ronchi told journalists. He was presenting the forthcoming "recycling week" initiative, to be held from 22-26 February, promoted by the Italian environment ministry and the national packaging consortium, Conai.

Italian firms import millions of tonnes of packaging materials annually, at a cost of around euros 1bn, according to speakers at Wednesday's press conference, including 10m tonnes of steel, around 1m tonnes of paper and 100,000 tonnes of glass.

Packaging materials make up more than one third of Italy's urban solid waste, and over one quarter of all waste that ends up in landfills. This year, of approximately 9.8m tonnes of packaging used, the government is aiming to see 4.3m tonnes recycled compared with 3.8m tonnes in 1999. Municipalities will be expected to achieve over half of the overall recycling target.

Local councils have some euros 134m to spend on schemes to help achieve the target. In the southern regions of Calabria, Campania, Puglia and Sicily, where recycling rates are half the national average, specially appointed officials have been assigned "significant resources" to create employment for the young jobless in local recycling schemes.

Follow Up:
Italian environment ministry, tel: +39 06 57 22 55 80; Conai, tel: +39 02 760 541.

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