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Waste disposal

The Hera Group, through its subsidiary Herambiente, manages its treatment plant system, through operations to recover and dispose of urban and special waste, with a portfolio that included an impressive 80 plants in 2011. This plant system represents a unique integrated and complete model in Italy that allows the Group to effectively and appropriately respond to EU and Italian legislation regarding waste management. The system involves various types of plants: storage and initial pre-treatment plants, plants for the selection and recovery of dry material (paper, cardboard, glass, plastic and tins), composting and anaerobic digestion with energy recovery, waste-to-energy plants with high energy recovery, landfills, chemical-physical treatment of liquid waste, treatment, pre-treatment and reconditioning of muddy waste and pulverulents. It therefore covers all treatment requirements relating to the urban waste collected by Hera S.p.A. in the target area and a wide range of hazardous and non-hazardous waste from the industrial and service industries sector within the national customer base.
Herambiente carried out the following operations in 2011:

  • it completed the new Rimini waste-to-energy plant with the addition of a new energy recovery system
  • it extended the size of various existing landfills (Ravenna, Tre Monti, Zocca, Pago) designed for the disposal of mainly special waste. It carried out various operations for the definitive capping of decommissioned landfills and their reintegration into the landscape and environment (Legislative Decree no. 36/2003);
  • with regard to special waste plants, the "disidrat" plant that treats muddy waste and pulverulents in the province of Ravenna was completed; the revamping of the Bologna chemical-physical plant was completed and the work to modernise the hazardous and non-hazardous special waste plants at the Via Baiona site in Ravenna continued.

Hera "biodigester" project: + energy and - greenhouse gas

The project involves the recovery of biomass of various types, both as an agricultural fertiliser as well as a raw material in energy production, thereby avoiding its disposal in landfills and the consequent production of greenhouse gases. In 2011 the definitive executive plan for two dry digestion plants was completed as additional sections to the composting plants of Cà Baldacci (Rimini) and Voltana (Ravenna), including a section for the treatment of lignocellulosic fractions for the production of combustible biomass, and authorisation for the construction of the two plants was obtained.
Contracts were also drawn up for the realisation of this work with the worksites opened at the start of 2012 and the aim being to produce energy by the end of 2012.
Finally, the preliminary design of a plant with a dry digestion section and a composting section at the Area 3 site in Modena was completed.
At full pelt, each biodigester will produce 6,500 MWh of electricity (the consumption of 2,400 families) and compost with a positive balance in terms of greenhouse gas emissions.

Waste treated by type
Urban and special waste disposed by plant type
thousands of t200920102011
Separation plants1.36.74.0
Selection plants289.3322.2299.2
Waste-to-energy plants and biomass plants734.5800.6923.0
Compost plants402.0463.8504.7
Stabilisation and chemical and physical treatment1,084.61,227.4891.6
Third party plants1,202.71,452.71,216.3

The data refer to plant inflow waste. Duplication may therefore be included. Some of the waste treated in selection plants, for example, may be targeted for landfill disposal following selection treatment. The outgoing waste from plants which were counted among the final use plants was subtracted from the quantities treated in the separation plants.

The unfavourable economic climate has led to a general fall in the amount of both urban and special waste treated, with the partial exception of the waste treated by Marche Multiservizi. The Group worked to fill the energy recovery plants as a priority, with these registering an increase of 123,000 metric tons also thanks to the consolidation of Enomondo (whose figure is reported in the table at 100%). On the contrary there is a clear fall in the amount of waste disposed of in landfills, particularly in the Ravenna area and at the Galliera landfill (the latter also following the limit imposed by the new authorisation). The Hera Group plants were able to cope with the increase in separately collected waste. More specifically there was an increase in treatment at composting/digestion plants, particularly thanks to the Romagna Compost digester becoming fully operational and the consolidation of Enomondo. The fall in waste treated at selection plants can be attributed to the reduction in special waste treated. The better weather conditions compared with the previous year led to an evident fall in the number of sub products disposed of at the chemical-physical plants and the Hera S.p.A. treatment plants.

Special waste disposed of (breakdown by plant type) - 2010

Special waste: assimilated, hazardous and non-hazardous
When you talk about waste you immediately think of domestic rubbish. However, this is only a very blinkered view given that household rubbish does not even represent 20% of all waste produced.
Indeed, in Italy, where over 170 million metric tons of waste is produced a year, around 140 million is special waste, i.e. rubbish generated by production activities, while around 32 million metric tons is made up of urban rubbish. In Emilia-Romagna, the ratio does not change: out of around 13.5 million metric tons of waste produced in total, just 3 million takes the form of urban waste.
As such, despite its predominance, special waste becomes invisible in the collective imagination as it is far removed from daily life and also because of the different kind of treatment reserved for the two types of rubbish by the law. Urban waste must be collected, treated and disposed of in the province in which it is generated at a cost, for the general public, that is pre-established by the authorities. Conversely, special waste must be disposed of by the producer and for this companies use operators that best cater to their needs, also economically speaking.
Special waste is therefore often transported quite far from where it is actually produced: other provinces, other regions or even abroad. Over the years this inferior visibility, often united with an inferior degree of traceability, has been reflected in strategic planning deficiencies with regard to disposal plants, and unfortunately this tends to lead to a slide towards illegal forms of disposal, which for years has swelled the coffers of so-called environmental mafias.
The Legambiente "Ecomafia 2011" report highlights how "the basic problem remains the so-called 'black hole' of special waste, i.e. the lack of transparency over its traceability: a complaint that comes from investigators and operators in the sector". The report shows how 2010 was a record year for investigations into activities organised for the illegal trafficking of waste (art. 260 of Legislative Decree no. 152/2006) with over 2 million metric tons of waste sequestered. This is only a partial figure as it refers to just 12 of the 29 investigations launched by the forces of law and order in 2010.

Waste classification

In Italian law the classification of waste is based on the place in which the waste was generated (home or production environment) and not on physical, chemical or product characteristics. Legislative Decree no. 152/2006 classifies waste, on the basis of its origin, as urban or special, and, only downstream of this classification, according to its level of dangerousness, i.e. hazardous or non-hazardous.
Urban waste is domestic waste (also bulky) produced by homes, waste from the cleaning of streets and other public places, vegetable waste from green areas and any type of waste dumped or present in public areas, including beaches and riverbanks, whose production cannot be traced to a specific source. Also classed as urban waste is non-hazardous special waste originating in premises and places not used for dwelling, assimilated to urban waste in terms of quality and quantity by the Municipal Regulations (or supra-municipal authorities) on the basis of the general guidelines dictated by the State; this waste is special in terms of origin but, once assimilated, is managed (collected or disposed of) together with domestic urban waste and subject to levies or taxes.
Special waste is waste from agricultural, construction, artisanal, industrial, sanitary, commercial and services activities, waste deriving from waste recovery and disposal activities, water treatment sludge, mining or decontamination.
Waste is classified as hazardous or non-hazardous depending on the substances it contains. Hazardous urban waste is made up of domestic waste that contains pollutants or toxic substances in such measures that they have to be disposed of in special plants (e.g. medicines and batteries).
Hazardous special waste is generated by production activities and contains the aforementioned pollutants or toxic substances.

Urban and special waste production by Province (2009)
thousands of tUrban
special waste
special waste
special waste
Total provinces in Hera operating area2,1387,6506378,28710,425
Reggio Emilia391959711,0301,421
Total Region of Emilia-Romagna2,9879,69989610,595



Source: Arpa processing of data from MUD, taken from RER Arpa - The management of waste in Emilia-Romagna - Report 2010 and 2011

The line between urban waste and special waste is therefore established by the assimilation regulations defined by national law and applied at local level. Every municipality can apply the criteria for assimilating waste deriving from production, commercial and tertiary activities in a different way, acting in particular on quantitative thresholds.
The more waste that is assimilated to urban waste, the less special waste is left to be managed by the private sector with the risk of inferior controls and traceability. In the areas managed by the Hera Group and Emilia-Romagna in general, there is a high level of assimilation: it is estimated that the waste managed as part of the public service comprises 50% waste of domestic origin and 50% waste of non-domestic origin, i.e. assimilated special waste. It is also estimated that there is around 1.5 million metric tons of special waste that could be assimilated for its characteristics (i.e. non-hazardous) but which is not assimilated because it is produced by a single production business in quantities above the established limit.
Unlike in Italy, in Europe the classification of waste is more directly related to its level of dangerousness and the type of treatment it undergoes.

 Non-hazardous wasteHazardous waste
Urban waste

Domestic waste (dry and organic)

Waste from the cleaning of streets and other public places

Assimilated urban waste

Batteries, lead accumulators

Environmentally harmful packaging

TVs, monitors, fridges, air conditioning units and lamps

Mineral oils

Special waste

Waste from agricultural and agro-industrial activities

Inert materials and bricks (deriving from construction and demolition businesses)

Commercial and industrial packaging

Plastics and glass processing waste

Artisanal and industrial

Deriving from waste recovery and disposal operations, also urban

Petrochemical and pharmaceutical production waste

Metallic waste

Sludge from reclamation activities

Used oils

Medical and veterinary research waste

Special waste supply chain at Hera
The flow of special waste treatment at Hera is highly structured given the variable nature of this waste that derives from industry, from the purification of wastewater, from construction, from the commercial and services sector, and from the healthcare sector.
Hera has 29 plants exclusively equipped for the disposal of special waste, with over 3 million metric tons managed in 2011 (including sub-products deriving from Group plant activities). There are disposal limits defined, plant by plant, by provincial authorisations or by integrated environmental authorisations.

Electricity for 2000 families in the municipality of Ravenna from biogas

In February 2011 the Herambiente landfill on the SS Romea road in Ravenna opened a 0.8 MW energy recovery plant fuelled by biogas and made up for the most part by methane and carbon dioxide, produced by the bacterial fermentation of organic residues deriving from waste deprived of oxygen: it is expected to operate for 15 years with an annual average production of around 5.5 million kWh, equivalent to the annual requirement of over 2,000 families.

18,975 metric tons of reagents were consumed in the waste-to-energy plants: this is up by around 20% because all plants became fully operational and also because of an increase in the number of hours of operations compared with 2010. 9,093 metric tons of chemical reagents were consumed in the stabilisation and chemical-physical treatment plants, 37.4% less than in 2010: this fall was down to the optimisation of management and the lower quantity of incoming waste. At the Modena plant this optimisation took place through a change to the process that makes it possible to work at a lower pH and with less use of flocculants (ferric chloride and polyelectrolyte).

thousands of tISO 14001EMAS200920102011
Coriano - Ravennaxx69.8109.6114.4
Frullo Granarolo - Bologna (Frullo Energia Ambiente)xx198.4206.2201.0
Canal Bianco, Ferrara xx132.0130.0129.8
Grigioni Forlì xx118.3116.0115.7
Strada Romea km 2.6 Ravenna xx42.842.842.1
Comparto Area 2 Cavazza Modena xx137.0157.8176.3
Special Waste Ravenna xx36.238.240.0
Faenza - Ravenna (Enomondo)x   103.7
Total waste-to-energy plants and biomass plants  734.5800.6923.0
Busca – Forlì-Cesenaxx 85.7 79.6 63.8
Strada Romea km 2.6 (1C) Ravenna xx 286.1  297.6 205.0
Lugo – RAxx 0.0 0.0 16.2
Galliera – Bolognaxx 157.8  176.781.6
Tremonti Imola - Bolognaxx 198.7  153.7 199.1
Il Pago Firenzuola – Florencexx 78.7  86.9 90.2
Strada Romea km 2.6 formerly 2B super Ravenna (Sotris)xx 6.3  0.4 0.0
Strada Romea km 2.6, formerly 2B super TN Ravenna (Sotris)xx 63.1 97.3 90.2
Zocca – Modenaxx 56.9 59.6 53.1
Castelmaggiore - Bologna (A.S.A.)xx 179.0 220.4 193.6
S. Agata Bolognese - Bologna (Nuova Geovis)x  21.2 20.3 17.1
Tavullia – Pesaro-Urbino (Marche Multiservizi)x 93.281.8213.0
Montecalvo – Pesaro-Urbino (Marche Multiservizi)x 39.469.6 
Urbino (Marche Multiservizi)x 30.336.8 
Third party landfills   104.1 48.945.4
Total landfills  1,400.41,429.71,268.3
Coriano - Ravenna (Akron)xx 68.2 80.079.9
Modena (Akron)x  60.0 60.655.6
Mordano - Bologna (Akron)xx 44.1 48.239.3
Lugo-Cotignola - Ravenna (Akron) xx 70.6 75.972.4
Ferrara (Akron)x  42.7 53.248.9
Other external plants   3.8 4.43.2
Total selection plants  289.3322.2299.2
Busca – Forlì-Cesena (Romagna Compost)   21.9 42.846.3
S. Agata Bolognese - Bologna (Nuova Geovis)x  99.4 111.459.6
Stabilisation plant S. Agata Bol.se - Bologna (Nuova Geovis)x
Ozzano - Bologna (Nuova Geovis)x  21.5 22.020.2
Voltana di Lugo – Ravennaxx 48.3 52.655.9
Cà Baldacci Rimini xx 37.4 42.947.0
Ostellato - Ferrarax  87.3 99.629.0
Stabilisation plant Ostellato (Ferrara)x
WDF stabilisation plant - Ravennax  17.0 22.921.6
Tremonti Imola stabilisation plant - Bologna (Akron)xx 65.2 59.563.2
Faenza - Ravenna (Enomondo)x
Stabilisation plant (Marche Multiservizi)x  3.9 10.19.5
Total composting plants  402.0463.8504.7
Forli chemical phys. plantxx25.338.618.8
Ravenna chemical phys. biological plantxx187.3215.7138.8
Ravenna sludge treatment plant  134.8115.3113.0
Z.I. chemical phys. plant. Ravennaxx243.2342.4259.8
Alfonsine chemical phys. biological plant - Ravenna x
Russi chemical phys. plant - Ravenna
Lugo chemical-physical-biological plant – Ravenna xx92.0133.777.2
ITFI stabilisation and chemical phys. plant Bolognaxx130.0155.9103.8
Ravenna stabilisation plant (Sotris) xx10.315.414.2
Chemical-physical plant (with special waste platform) Ferraraxx8.317.718.3
Area 2 Cavazza chemical physical plant Modenaxx133.366.661.8
Area 3 chemical physical plant Modena x 19.922.43.1
Soliroc plant Modenax
Anaerobic digester Spilamberto - Modena  76.391.169.9
Leachate treatment plant Forlì-Cesena (Romagna Compost)
Experimental sludge treatment plant SOTRIS
CIC stabilisation and chemical physical plant Modenax
Total stabilisation and chemical phys. plants  1,084.61,227.3891.6
WDF production Ravennaxx-
Bologna separationx -
Separation Tremonti Imola - Bologna (Akron) xx-
Forlì separationxx5.20.00.0
Ostellato separation - Ferrarax -1.40.4
Total mechanical separation plants
Third party plants (treatment plants)  1,133.31,348.91,108.6
Marche Multiservizi third party plants  69.4103.8107.6
Total other plants  1,202.71,452.71,216.2
Total  5,114.85,703.15,107.1