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Product, Service & Design Innovation
Enel Report Highlights 100 Innovators Shaping Italy’s Circular Economy

Italy is quickly establishing itself as a force to be reckoned with in the circular economy, as evidenced by a new report from Enel, an Italian multinational manufacturer and distributor of electricity and gas.

Italy is quickly establishing itself as a force to be reckoned with in the circular economy, as evidenced by a new report from Enel, an Italian multinational manufacturer and distributor of electricity and gas. The report, 100 Italian Circular Economy Stories, gives a voice to a cutting-edge, sustainable and competitive Italy, sharing the stories of Aquafil, Orange Fiber, Eataly, EcodesignLab, Zero Waste Italy, and 96 other movers and shakers across multiple industries.

“The one hundred excellences of this report describe a country that, despite many problems and delays, has advanced experiences pertaining to crucial issues such as environmental sustainability, management of resource scarcity and the fight against climate change,” said Ermete Realacci, Chairman of the Symbola Foundation.

“These hundred stories tell us about a country that promotes itself and innovates without losing its soul; they tell us about a model of economy and society that are more sustainable, competitive and equitable, which could represent the Italian answer to the burning questions that the present and the future pose to the planet.”

The 100 companies, research centers and non-profit organizations featured in the report piece together a profile of the vast array of products “Made in Italy”; products synonymous with beauty and quality, as well as innovation and sustainability. They include products made from waste materials such as old mooring posts from the Venice lagoon, citrus fruit pulp and plastic bottles; regenerated household appliances; reused clothing; and bioplastics.

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Alba-based Amethyst is helping improve water efficiency with its innovative wastewater purification system that uses porous volcanic rock, plants and microorganisms selected according to the type of water pollution to be treated; while Aquafil, which recently launched a new partnership with fast fashion giant H&M, is changing the face of fashion with its recycled nylon yarn ECONYL. Meanwhile, BIOGEST-SITEIA is transforming byproducts from the wine production chain into bioplastics, eco building materials and energy and biochar fertilizer; Garbagelab is making ecologically designed bags from old PVC advertising tarpaulins; and Remedia, a nonprofit consortium of 1,500 manufacturers and importers, is working to ensure that WEEE (waste electrical and electronic equipment), as well as used batteries and accumulators, are collected and given a new life.

Eurostat data shows that Italy is the nation with the highest level of secondary raw materials used by the manufacturing system: almost a fifth of the total (18.5 percent), well ahead of Germany (10.7 percent), which is the only country with a stronger manufacturing sector than Italy. What’s more, with 256.3 tons per million euros, a figure almost half that of 2008 and much lower than that of Germany (423.6), Italy is the most efficient major European country in terms of material consumption after Great Britain (which employs 223.4 tons of material per million euros, but which also has an economy based more on the financial sector).

The country is also second after Germany (59.2 million tons) for industrial recycling with 48.5 million tons of non-hazardous waste sent for recycling. According to the Ambiente Italia research institute, this materials recovery delivers primary energy savings that are equivalent to more than 17 million tons of crude oil per year and saves CO2 emissions of around 60 million tons.

The enhanced efficiency that characterizes the organizations highlighted in the report will continue to improve these numbers and translates into lower production costs for Italy, in addition to reduced dependency on imports, greater competitiveness and new opportunities for Italian resourcefulness and creativity.

“The circular economy can create new business models that integrate innovation and sustainability as a strategic choice for competitiveness,” said Francesco Starace, CEO and General Manager of Enel. “The report…shows that among the 100 excellences of the circular economy in Italy, there are not only large companies, but also small and medium enterprises, institutions, associations and cooperatives that have had the ability to anticipate the times and adopt virtuous industrial practices and processes, underlining the competitiveness of the Italian system in the international sphere and contributing to the fight against climate change.”