Milan European champion for waste management

New York comes to study how Milan does it.

Milan has won the European bronze medal as second-best city in the continent (after Vienna) for differentiated waste management.

The result is so successful that New York City’s Department of Sanitation sent a delegation to Milan to hold a series of meetings with city hall and AMSA municipal environmental agency officials for an exchange of best practice ideas.

Mayor Giuseppe Sala is also considering a formula for tying the TARI waste disposal tax to tax-payers’ behaviour, virtuous or otherwise: residents (and shops and offices) continuing to sort and dispose of their waste correctly should see their TARI bill reduced, while those disregarding the rules could see their tax bill raised.

Milan’s rise to by far the best result in Italy and second in Europe has been a recent development. As recently as 2012, the proportion of differentiated waste in the city stood at a mere 32 per cent. A determined effort by the city management, including above all the door-to-door collection of “umido” kitchen waste, has raised that proportion to 54 per cent.

Now the city’s intention is to reach 65 per cent over the next four years, and to join in a race with New York to arrive at “zero waste” – all rubbish differentiated and recycled – by 2030.

New skips on the street will be fitted with chips for remote warning when they are full and require collecting. Some 15,000 “smart skips” should be deployed around the city by 2018.

A2A, the city holding for energy and controller of AMSA, now operates six new plants for the treatment of glass, paper, plastic and kitchen waste, and plans to invest a further €500 million by the year 2020. At present, says A2A, only 0.1 per cent of undifferentiated waste finishes up in landfills; the remainder is used to provide heating for 20,000 families and electricity for another 130,000.

City hall is now preparing a strategy of intensifying the cleaning of the local street markets of rotting fruit and vegetables and packing cases, and of targeting a campaign on people coming from elsewhere to work in Milan, who are less likely to feel involved with the city’s cleanliness.

Further plans include encouraging households to add the huge amount of packaging, for example for products bought online and delivered to homes, in the paper/cardboard category, and adjust the recycling plants to deal with both types. Over 200 municipal trash trucks will be replaced by more modern vehicles over the next two years.

Working hours for garbage collectors will be upped from 36 to 38 hours per week, to enable cleaning to take place also on Sundays, and even up to 40 hours in periods when the city hosts a particularly high number of tourists. Updated street-washing vehicles, which no longer require residents to move their cars on cleaning days, have also already improved the city’s hygiene.