SIRCLES in Italy: a good practice to be replicated in organic waste management at local level

Seven people trained and contracted for 10 months, 6,160 total hours of activity, 23 information centers, about 2,000 citizens interviewed and sensitized on the issue of waste separate collection, over 50,000 people reached on social media. These are the numbers with which the European project SIRCLESSupporting Circular Economy Opportunities for Employment and  Social Inclusion, carried out in Italy by Consorzio Italiano Compostatori (CIC), Progeva, CIHEAM  Bari and Sud Est Donne concludes in Italy  and whose results were presented and discussed at a press conference in Bari, at the Conference Room of Anci Puglia.

Born with the aim of supporting opportunities in the circular economy in Mediterranean tourist areas with a high unemployment rate and training specialized figures  in the organic waste sector selected among young NEETs (Not  in Education, Employment or Training) and people at risk of social exclusion, SIRCLES Italia took place in the Valle d'Itria, in Puglia, involving the municipalities of Alberobello, Locorotondo, Noci and Putignano.

The desired change was promoted through the commitment and activities of 7 collaborators, selected among 60 participants from the attendants to a general training course on circular economy conducted in the first phase of the project, who became real "ambassadors of sustainability", promoting the advantages of circular economy and knowledge of the organic waste chain.

The collaborators have been contracted and employed for 10 months to conduct meeting, survey and awareness activities aimed at citizens, commercial users (in particular in the HO.RE.CA. sector), municipal administrations, schools and thus collect crucial information on the habits of separate collection of organic waste, useful for directing future initiatives to improve the quality of the organic supply chain.

The results of the surveys conducted for SIRCLES in Italy

The results of the surveys showed, for example, that 97% of Apulian citizens from the municipalities of Alberobello, Locorotondo, Noci and Putignano engage in the  collection of wet waste, but almost half (48%) do not know where the organic waste is transferred. What emerges is the lack of information on the separate collection of organic waste: from which products to be thrown into the separate bin to which are the final products that are obtained from processing, namely compost and biomethane. It is not a coincidence that 78% indicated education and information as the key to improve their behavior in terms of organic collection.

The surveys also involved 141 businesses in the food and hospitality sector (Ho.Re.Ca), the latter particularly active in a region dedicated to tourism such as Puglia. As part of SIRCLES, initiatives dedicated to the world of hospitality have therefore been planned, including the "Green Label Campaign" which, with surveys and monitoring, has led to rewarding 26 structures in the Valle dell'Itria with the title of  "Bio Waste Recycler" and with the release of the "green label" that certifies quality and commitment to improve the environment and the territory, starting from the attention to the collection and management of organic waste.

Finally, awareness-raising activities reached dozens of small commercial activities, such as fruit and vegetable market counters, butchers, bakeries, pastry shops, fruit shops, dairies, small and medium-sized supermarkets. Employees handed over information material and explained the importance of buying and distributing bags made of biodegradable and compostable materials certified by law for the takeaway of goods: in 90% of the cases, the traders interviewed said  they were aware of the national legislation and  83% confirmed that they use shopping bags in biodegradable materials and Compostable certified for takeaway goods.

"We are very proud of the results of SIRCLES - Italy. This project has allowed us to develop new skills in the area and give many people the opportunity to approach the world of circular economy and discover the opportunities that can derive from the organic waste sector", underlines Lella Miccolis, President of the Italian Composters Consortium (CIC).  "At the same time, we have launched an important awareness-raising activity, which is more necessary than ever, to improve the behaviour and knowledge of citizens and traders. The hope is to be able to replicate this type of activity in other regions of Italy, to raise awareness on the issue of separate waste collection and on the economic and environmental advantages that virtuous recycling entails".

"The SIRCLES project was a new experience for us, a sort of 'experimental laboratory' of investigation and communication, which allowed us to carry out research actions and timely information / awareness towards the citizens of the four municipalities involved", declared the collaborators who took part in SIRCLES in Puglia.  "The project leaves interesting results on the territory that we would like to have a continuity: we believe it is useful that the interventions put in place are not dispersed. For this reason we hope for a continuation that makes our work useful and effective, also with the involvement, commitment and support of the public administrations and other local actors, such as schools. We think that the project can be an example of good practice, certainly replicable in other territories, in order to make citizens increasingly attentive to the environment, the circular economy and the importance of the organic waste supply chain."

"The Mediterranean area brings together common cultures and shared projects thanks to the European Programme ENI CBC MED. SIRCLES has created an innovative space of dialogueand collaboration for the circular economy, starting from experimentation in small territories to get to the Mediterranean dimension. Even the vision of the new INTERREG NEXT MED Program, now at the starting line, will give great emphasis to the green dimension in Mediterranean policies", underlines Claudio Polignano, National Contact Point ENI CBC MED – Puglia Region.

The inclusion and sustainability project SIRCLES  - Supporting  Circular  Economy Opportunities  for Employment and Social Inclusion - is funded by the European Union through the ENI CBC Med  2014 - 2020  program and involves 7 Mediterranean countries: Spain, Greece, Palestine, Jordan, Lebanon, Tunisia, Italy.  

The coordination of  the SIRCLES - Italy project is carried out by the Italian Composters Consortium in collaboration  with PROGEVA S.r.l. - Composting company for the recovery of organic waste;  CIHEAM Bari  - Centre for postgraduate training, applied scientific research and planning of interventions in the field of research and international cooperation  programmes;  Sud Est Donne  - Association of Social Promotion that deals with preventing and combating violence against women;  Sustainable workshops Benefit Society  - environmental communication company. Among the institutions that  contributed to the project, also the Istituto Tecnico Agrario e Professionale Alberghiero  Basile-Caramia Gigante of   Locorotondo and Alberobello, which hosted project activities and training sessions of SIRCLES.