Federico Testa, President of the Italian national agency for new technologies, energy and sustainable development, ENEA, is convinced that Italy is ready for a systemic change towards circular economy. Testa proposed, as recently stated at the convention on Italian innovation and competitiveness within circular economy (Innovazione e competitività: la via italiana alla circular economy), that ENEA could operate as the central coordinating body responsible for conjoining the collaborative efforts of institutions, research groups and consortiums to help companies reach more sustainable and efficient business models at a national level.

The strategy can potentially create 500,000 new jobs and attempts to harness Italy’s high quality manufacturing skills, thus prioritizing the ‘Made in Italy’ brand. While the plan targets to cut pollutant emissions by an estimated 450 million tons a year, the key aim remains that of creating a new innovation infrastructure that can restore a competitive edge to small and medium Italian firms, which often are “isolated” in the recycling process, as underlined by Roberto Morabito director of ENEA’s Sustainability Department.

ENEA’s plan is synthesized in a four-point programme. The first point consists in the creation of a dedicated agency following the examples of existing German, Japanese and American agency structures. Secondly, the agency would counsel firms on preventive waste strategies. Thirdly, it would provide technology to further the integration of innovative tools in the production cycle of businesses and, fourthly, the agency will focus on coordinating the activities and simplifying the procedures between firms and public administration.

Although the plan still needs to take hold, several Italian companies have already developed strongly around circular economy. It suffices to mention, for instance, Lavazza’s bio-degradable coffee capsules created from compost material, Novamont’s MaterBi plastic created from bio-refineries in Porto Torres or even Aquafil (turnover of €500million in 2015) with its line of eco-jeans and ‘green’ clothing derived exclusively from carpets and fishing nets using its advanced ‘ECONYL’ technology. These companies have acted as a pole of attraction for other businesses not only in Italy but world-wide, standing to show the strategic opportunity for economic growth that can be created from circular models in almost any sector. 

Italy’s involvement in circular economy is further highlighted by the efforts of Banca Intesa and Enel which have bolstered their international recognition by being nominated as finalists in the Davos ‘The Circulars’ awards (organized by the World Economic Forum) in 2016 and 2017, respectively.

It is important for firms and stakeholders alike to embrace and learn about current successful circular strategies, although a stronger institutional and administrative involvement is needed, as ENEA’s plan wants to achieve, if a durable transformation to circular economy is to take place.