Leggi l'intervista al DG Assocarta Massimo Medugno pubblicata su PPI Europe a firma di Andrea Venturini. (Pubblicazione concessa da PPI Europe)

BRUSSELS, Dec. 5, 2019 (PPI Europe) - The Italian paper industry is going through turbulent times. The country’s paper for recycling (PfR) market is on the verge of collapse as recycling sites are full and PfR prices are scraping bottom. On the other hand, some of the announced capacity expansions in the recycled containerboard (RCCM) market have either been postponed or are in doubt because of problems with authorization. PPI Europe sat down with the director of Assocarta, the Italian association of paper producers, Massimo Medugno, to talk about the present situation of the paper industry in the country and future prospects.

PPI Europe: Assocarta has said that thanks to the European Green Deal announced by the European paper industry, the Italian paper sector can reduce its environmental impact while increasing paper production. How would that work, exactly?

Massimo Medugno: The de-carbonization and energy efficiency process is ongoing, but it is still fossil fuel-based, while bio-based products have a lower environmental impact. Biomethanol would be a good solution for household consumption because it can be transferred to the national grid. Thanks to the law implementing the European Union’s Renewable Energy Directive, we might increase organic waste collection and, together with production residuals, we could produce biomethanol to be sent to the national grid. Plus, the raw material that our industry uses is recyclable, and this is an advantage. In the next few years, European recycling capacity will grow by approximately five million tonnes, and one million of this five million tonnes will come from Italy. In order to improve the quality of paper collection, we recently approved the Aticelca 501e guidelines, which allow endusers to place a logo on their paper packaging saying to what extent the packaging material is recyclable and how.


PPI Europe: The recently-approved end-of-waste (EoW) law will allow new recycling plants to be authorized. But PfR demand has plummeted since China stopped buying from Europe. How can this situation be solved?

Massimo Medugno: Thanks to the new paper production capacities the situation will improve. But we need to improve the recycling ecosystem. The EoW [law] allows us to improve the quality of the PfR and thus use it for other applications. And since in Italy no one wants to open new disposal sites or incinerators, waste material must be recycled. It is true that China is not buying PfR anymore but Italian PfR exports to countries such as Germany and Turkey have increased. Plus, PfR can be used in packaging paper, kraft bags and tissue paper. And the substitution of plastic packaging with paper-based packaging should further help.

PPI Europe: And how about speficic EoW laws for paper and pulper residuals?

Massimo Medugno: We are waiting for regulations on these issues. We think that pulper residuals, which are mostly plastic, could be used to create energy, as is already done in other European countries. But even if they were to be recycled, it would be positive for us. Pulper residuals should have priority within the plastic production process, in order to support recycling.

PPI Europe: There are already some projects moving in this direction, like the copper-based materials producer KME’s plan to build a paper-industry powered waste incinerator in Bagni di Lucca, but sometimes the Italian business environment does not seem to help, does it?

Massimo Medugno: In this case it is not a matter of law, it is a matter of taking the right decisions. The Lucca paper district recycles 25% of Italy’s collected paper and,

if you want to close the recycling loop, KME, which is already a recycling-based company, should be given the opportunity to keep on recycling and producing.

PPI Europe: What about the authorization process for Pro-Gest’s Mantova mill?

Massimo Medugno: Decisions by local authorities have a big impact on the market, and the Mantova case is the biggest and most famous example. Italy is a PfR exporter and the PfR market would be more stable if Pro-Gest was to start producing. Plus, a paper mill which has been closed for years would begin operating again. We don’t know where to put our PfR and at the same time we don’t authorize new production sites that would absorb those volumes. What is the solution? I think the circular economy should be something that should be taken into account not only during industry conferences but also in everyday life.

PPI Europe: How do you evaluate the performance of the Italian paper industry?

Massimo Medugno: Setting aside the graphic paper segment, the packaging, tissue and specialty paper segments are innovating and we have strong faith in their future. We particularly look with interest at specialty papers, because they now have a wide range of applications and can substitute other materials. (Andrea Venturini)



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