Updated: Jul 7, 2020
What opportunities in addition to energy production and landfill
It is just these days the news that was inaugurated (on September 2) the stadium Mannucci Pontedera (Pisa) with seats in plasmix. The stadium has been redesigned from a green point of view with seats in recycled plastic from heterogeneous packaging from the waste collection in Tuscany. In the stands of the stadium were installed 3000 seats produced for the first time in plasmix, ie mixed plastics selected by Revet Spa and recycled by Revet Recycling Srl, both based in the Tuscan town. The Mannucci is the first stadium in the world to be equipped with recycled plastic seats instead of virgin plastic ones. The redevelopment of the stadium from a green point of view, which also includes a new LED lighting system, involved an investment of almost 300 thousand euros.
Revet, in collaboration with the Bologna-based company Omsi, which specialises in the moulding of seats for sports facilities, has formulated a recycled compound that is compatible with normal moulding machinery and has the same characteristics and guarantees compliance with the European V2 standards adopted by FIFA. The inauguration of Pontedera achieve a long period work carried out by Revet and its Research and Development department, which certifies the very high quality achieved by Revet granules, which are now working to reduce costs per unit of product, in order to make the final product competitive (not only environmentally, but also economically), with the one made of 100% virgin material.
The mayor of Pontedera, Matteo Franconi, was also proud to state at the inauguration that this is a concrete application of that circular zero-km economy in which the waste collected, the industrial plants that further sorted and then recycled it, are entirely from the local area and the Mannucci stadium now uses it as a finished product. He added that today's public administrations have the task of improving and concretely supporting the circular economy by ensuring orders of this type and the necessary market space to support products made from recycling.
It may not seem like a great thing, but in reality it is an important goal because the problem of the reuse in Italy of plasmix is long-standing and complicated.
First of all, it is necessary to explain what is meant by plasmix: a set of post-consumer packaging made up of light heterogeneous plastics (films, films, bags) that for many years has not found an outlet in the recycling market (not recoverable as single polymers) and was almost exclusively destined to energy recovery (incinerators) and in a small percentage to landfill. Therefore, a very different material from "noble" plastic packaging such as PET from bottles and flacons that have an already started chain. The plasmix represents more than 50% of all plastic packaging collected separately and is one of the most critical waste to be managed for the entire supply chain.
Something moved though. In 2017, in fact, the draft law 4502 - first signatory Stefano Vignaroli, M5S - which aimed to promote the spread of products derived from the recycling of plasmix, began its process in the Environment Committee of the Chamber. The incentive to recycle heterogeneous plastics has therefore had to enter political territory and refer to a regulatory and fiscal framework to have the right reconsideration. In reality, much could already be done to promote the recycling of plasmix even with existing laws, as virtually all the regulations passed during the last legislature have always referred to Green public procurement, primarily within the Code of Procurement. However, there was a fundamental problem: incinerators take incentives to burn these types of plastics (on energy production), but those who recover them do not. Unfortunately, building products with these plastics costs on average 20% more than virgin plastics. The bill tended to eliminate this sort of "unfair competition" and grow a new and virtuous market for the recovery of materials. Unfortunately, however, in Italy it often happens that when laws are passed, no one is concerned with implementing those basic rules that - when defining the specifications - favor some materials and not others. Companies such as Revet di Pontedera are rare and have long since begun to apply the laws that already exist. Public purchasers simply need to start by drawing up standard tender specifications, opening up privileged channels for recycled products. It is clear that if we want to push on the recovery of plasmix, we must ensure and promote a final market for recycled products.
With regard to the Pontedera Stadium, we can certainly speak of a concrete example of circular economy and avant-garde environmental sustainability 'made in Tuscany'. But looking at the issue at national and European level we can say that if in the medium term it is necessary to prevent the placing on the market of packaging difficult to recycle, discouraging production with ad hoc regulations and tax levers, in the immediate instead we must intervene at national level by encouraging the recycling of plasmix that alone is worth, as we have already said, about half of the plastics collected separately by municipalities. There are virtuous companies that use plasmix to create high quality products (accessories and carenature of motorcycles, pallets, swings, benches and other street furniture) but still collide too much with unfavorable conditions given by the higher costs compared to the production of virgin polymers and the market outlet of products in plasmix still too restricted to the actual potential. Much more needs to be done, but the road taken is certainly the right one and the Mannucci di Pontedera is a wonderful example of this.