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In the popular imagination, the word “waste” is associated with the idea of the final phase of something, a phase that concludes with the final journey towards definitive disposal. However, in the most advanced societies, waste has now become simply an intermediate stage of a material, from which resources are reborn: essentially, new raw materials - the “secondary” raw materials - and energy.

In short, to alter a well-known saying with a little poetic licence, it might be said that “nothing of waste goes to waste”. So when we talk about waste, we are talking about a constantly self-stoking cycle which, if properly managed, can generate economic and environmental value for the entire community. For this cycle to be effectively virtuous, in line with the dictates of the European Union, it must be based on an integrated system of selection and disposal plants capable of maximising the resources that can be extracted from the waste and simultaneously minimising the impact of the entire chain on the surrounding environment.

In Emilia-Romagna the Hera Group, through Herambiente, has been committed since the time of its creation to giving concrete form and fluidity to this virtuous cycle, which makes the region one of the most advanced in Europe in terms of waste management.

The Herambiente Group´s plants for processing municipal and special waste, including hazardous waste, enable it to meet all requirements for appropriate management of the entire amount produced, as well as the growing service demands of the local and national economy.

Herambiente
carries out its waste management operations and its material and energy recovery activities without compromising the quality of the surrounding environment. Herambiente conducts its activities with the greatest respect for the territory in which it operates and adopts the solutions with the lowest overall impact on the environment at every stage of the treatment process. All treatment plants are subjected to rigorous monitoring, the results of which are made public through environmental declarations.

Emissions from the waste-to-energy plants are published online, and with a single click anyone can see what is coming out of the chimneys.

Herambiente also opens its plants to anyone who wants to see the journey made by waste: by either booking online or making a simple telephone call, you can visit our plants and take a guided tour.

 
 
  • Law 748 of 19 October 1984, "New rules for the regulation of fertilisers", identified four types of soil improvers: simple un-composted soil improver of vegetable origin, composted green soil improver, composted mixed soil improver and composted peat-based soil improver.
    At national level, Legislative Decree 22/97 (the "Ronchi Decree") unified the previous legislation and defined the results to be achieved in terms of recovery of the organic fraction from municipal solid waste and from recycling. It also attributed full jurisdiction to Law 748/84 with regard to the use of compost as a fertiliser.
    In April 2006, Legislative Decree 152 (the "Consolidated Environmental Act") came into force.
    This concerned various aspects of the soil improver and compost sector. In 2008, it was amended by Legislative Decree 4 of 16 January 2008, which established further corrective and supplementary provisions; in particular, Article 183 defines the notion of "high-quality compost" as "a product obtained from the composting of separately collected organic waste, which conforms to the requirements and characteristics established by Annex 2 of Legislative Decree 217 of 2006, as amended".
    Resolution 1996/2006 of the Emilia-Romagna Regional Council defines the conditions for the use, as an engineering material, of "biostabilised" non-hazardous special waste (EWC 19 May 2003), obtained by aerobic biostabilisation of the mainly wet fraction of mechanically separated undifferentiated municipal waste, as well as of the wet fraction of waste deriving from separated collection.
    With Legislative Decree 205 of 3 December 2010, the legislator transposed into Italian law the indications of the European Union concerning the policies to be adopted with regard to the disposal of waste, and defined the priorities for waste management on the basis of what represents the best environmental option in planning policy.

    The organic waste obtained from the separate collection or from the mechanical separation of unseparated waste is taken to the composting and biostabilisation plants.
    The first of these two types of waste undergoes a composting treatment to transform it into compost for use as an agricultural soil improver, while the second, since it derives from unseparated waste and may, therefore, still contain traces of other waste, does not have the required "purity" characteristics for use in agriculture and is therefore biostabilised and used for other purposes, such as covering landfills, thus replacing raw materials.
    Composting:
    Even organic refuse from kitchens and gardens can become valuable resources. This is biological waste with a high water content and is therefore also referred to as the wet fraction of municipal waste, to distinguish it from the dry fraction (glass, plastic, metals, etc.). Recovery of the wet fraction can have a significant impact on the reduction of residual municipal waste.
    Composting uses the natural process of the decomposition of organic matter. This is a biological process that transforms organic matter into compost, a soil-improving fertiliser used in agriculture. The process takes place under controlled humidity and temperature conditions, through the activity of naturally-occurring microorganisms (bacteria, fungi, worms, mites, etc.), resulting in the production of heat and the formation of carbon dioxide and water.
    Herambiente produces high-quality compost from approximately 150,000 tonnes per year of organic waste derived from separated collection.
    In terms of innovation, to make the most of scraps and waste, there is a project to produce biomethane from the organic portion of urban waste in the Sant'Agata Bolognese (Bo) composting plant. From approximately 135 thousand tons of waste per year, it will be possible to generate 7,5 million m3 of biomethane, which can be used to fuel methane vehicles or injected into the regular gas network.
    Biostabilisation:
    In the plants dedicated to the treatment (biostabilisation) of the organic fractions obtained from the mechanical separation of unseparated municipal waste, the fermentation of the organic waste is accelerated, with the recovery, among other things, of biogas that can be used as a fuel. The end result is a material (biostabilised material or non-conforming compost) capable of being used as a covering for landfills, as an alternative to earth or other natural quarry materials. Other possible uses include the creation of embankments and escarpments, the environmental recovery of exhausted quarries and the restoration of disused landfills or polluted sites.

     
  • The process involved in the treatment of special waste within Herambiente is highly intricate. Specifically, it depends on the nature of the special waste to be treated.
    The rules on waste management were first established by Presidential Decree 915 of 10 September 1982 on the disposal of waste. As well as introducing a number of principles for defining systems to limit waste production, this subdivided waste into four types: municipal, special, toxic and harmful. In February 1997, this decree was superseded by Legislative Decree 22 (the "Ronchi Decree"), which focuses on preventing and reducing the quantity and hazardousness of waste.
    In April 2006, Legislative Decree 152 (the "Consolidated Environmental Act") came into force. This profoundly changed the legislative framework by introducing a wide range of innovations into the rules on environmental impact assessments and strategic environmental assessments, soil protection, water pollution prevention and water resources management, waste treatment and management, reclamation of contaminated sites, and pollution. The Consolidated Environmental Act makes a distinction between hazardous and non-hazardous special waste. Each of these two types may include solid, liquid or sludge waste. Special waste is subject to disposal limits defined, on a plant-by-plant basis, by the provincial authorities via the Integrated Environmental Authorisations (IEAs). However, the legislation does not specify any predefined geographical catchment area for its disposal, unlike in the case of municipal waste, for which a provincial and regional scope is specified.

    The law treats special waste as a free market commodity, for which the waste producers can select the management and disposal plant of their choice, either inside or outside of their province. Most special waste derives from industry, wastewater purification, construction works, the commercial and services sector, healthcare activities and reclamation works.
    Below is a brief description of the main types of plants.
    Ecological platforms:
    The ecological platforms receive hazardous and non-hazardous special solid waste (for example, from various industrial processes, demolition works and healthcare activities), which follows a process very similar to that of municipal waste. Here, after initial checking for acceptance and weighing, the waste is separated and grouped by material in the various sectors that comprise the platform, into groups with compatible physical and chemical characteristics so as to maximise the recoverable portion. The waste thus grouped is then temporarily stored in suitable areas, ready to be transferred to treatment plants.
    The residual portion, if suitable, is subjected to sorting operations aimed at extracting the recoverable fractions, such as iron and wood. The rest completes the cycle in waste-to-energy plants or in landfills, where they still contribute towards increasing the overall energy recovery.
    Physical-chemical and biological plants:
    The types of waste sent to these treatment plants may include, depending on their characteristics, hazardous and non-hazardous liquid and sludge waste (e.g. leachates from landfills, liquids and sludges from industrial processes, foodstuffs, fabrics, left-over earth from reclamation projects, sludges from extraction activities). After being checked for acceptability, the waste is stored in various reinforced-concrete tanks and steel containers of different sizes, according to the specific composition of the waste. All structures are equipped with the required safety equipment, such as containment tanks, high-level detection filling pumps, etc. For both liquid waste and sludges, the aim is to achieve maximum separation of the liquid and solid portions and, in the case of liquid waste, to reduce the levels of polluting substances, thanks to the use of reagents and special technological equipment. After physical-chemical treatment, if it meets the necessary requirements, the liquid residue can be reintroduced into the environment, i.e. emptied into bodies of water. If it does not meet these requirements, it must be made suitable for biological treatment at the appropriate plant and brought into conformity with legislation for subsequent discharge.
    Sludge - whether primary or produced by the various liquid waste treatment processes - must be given a suitable physical consistency for the chosen form of final disposal, which may mean that it is sent to a controlled landfill or a waste-to-energy plant, or used as a landfill covering material after stabilisation or neutralisation treatment.
    Neutralisation plants:
    Certain types of waste with an inorganic matrix and high concentrations of heavy metals (such as lime from fume abatement systems in the ceramics industry, or sludges and particulates from similar systems in the iron and steel industry), require a neutralisation treatment, which makes it possible to render the waste harmless by binding the pollutants into a cement matrix. The product thus obtained has excellent heavy metal retention qualities, allowing it to be disposed of in landfills.
    All of these plants are equipped with a rainwater collection system for road run-off and a system of holding tanks for collecting the process water.
    In terms of controlling emissions and environmental impacts, certified laboratories are commissioned to carry out regular checks on wastewater, waste, soil and subsoil at the frequency defined in the Integrated Energy Authorisation.

     
  • With the rapid growth of waste and sewage, not only in quantity but also in terms of varieties and hazardousness, between the sixties and the seventies, the areas surrounding cities are no longer able to absorb and metabolise the enormous amount of waste generated by modern living. A new solution is called for which will initially be, at least in its intent, technological: the "age of the plants" begins. These are the large industrial plants able to render the great quantity of waste that a technologically advanced society churns out at an increasing pace inert and non-hazardous to people and the environment.
    The waste-to-energy process, as a method for treating municipal solid waste, spread throughout the country in the decade between the end of the 1960s and the end of the 1970s, to then undergo a sharp slowdown in the 1980s. In that period of time, Emilia-Romagna was at the forefront in Italy, with five plants comprising a total of 11 thermal treatment lines, including two in Reggio Emilia (1968), three in Bologna (1973-1974), two in Rimini (1976), two in Forlì (1976) and two in Modena (1980). These plants lacked any type of energy recovery system.
    The cities of Trieste and Padua, whose waste-to-energy plants became part of the Herambiente Group on 1 July 2015, have an extremely long tradition of waste management through waste-to-energy.
    The local story of the city of Trieste in the daily newspaper "Il Piccolo" on 23 February 1915 was already talking about the inauguration of a "waste incinerator", which for the modest sum of 1 million crowns was already designed in those days for energy recovery. After a long break, the new Giarizzole incinerator, which will serve the city of Trieste until the end of 1999, was inaugurated in 1972. In the meantime, legislative changes induced the Trieste Municipality to speed up the building of the new waste incineration plant with energy recovery, which incorporated the best technologies available.
    The first waste-to-energy plant in Padua was built in the San Lazzaro district in the 50s and became operational in 1962. It was a real innovation at the time: the first Italian plant where energy was also recovered. The nominal capacity of the incinerator was 140 t/day and the boiler and thermal unit generated 1.4 MWh/day. A second combustion line with a capacity of 150t/day was built at the end of the 60s and later updated to adapt it to the increasingly more stringent regulations and inspections until it took on its final format in 2000.
    The Hera Group is participating in the project to install a waste-to-energy plant in the metropolitan area of Florence. Go to the website

    The sector rallied at the beginning of the 1990s following regulatory and technological developments, resulting in the installation of new plants, the enhancement of existing plants, improved pollution abatement systems and the introduction of energy recovery systems.
    The rules on waste management were first established by Presidential Decree 915 of 10 September 1982 on the disposal of waste. As well as introducing a number of principles for defining systems to limit waste production, this subdivided waste into four types: municipal, special, toxic and harmful. In February 1997, this decree was superseded by Legislative Decree 22 (the "Ronchi Decree"), which focuses on preventing and reducing the quantity and hazardousness of waste.
    In April 2006, Legislative Decree 152 (the "Consolidated Environmental Act") came into force. This profoundly changed the legislative framework by introducing a wide range of innovations into the rules on environmental impact assessments and strategic environmental assessments, soil protection, water pollution prevention and water resources management, waste treatment and management, reclamation of contaminated sites, and pollution. These new regulations set forth that "the installation and management of new plants will be authorised only if the relative combustion process ensures a high level of energy recovery", effectively approving the conversion of these plants from simple incinerators into modern waste-to-energy plants.
    A waste-to-energy (WTE) plant is one that does not confine itself to incinerating unseparated waste, squandering the heat produced by the combustion process, but is also capable of "adding value" to the waste by recovering energy from it.
    Herambiente and its subsidiaries offer themselves as a concrete answer to waste problems, including at national level, thanks to investments in technologies that guarantee development, transparency and innovation, in a sector which in Italy is fragmented and constantly stricken by emergencies.
    The ten waste-to-energy plants managed by the Herambiente Group cover a catchment area of more than 2.7 million people in the provinces of Ferrara, Ravenna, Modena, Bologna, Forlì-Cesena, Rimini, Isernia, Padua and Trieste. These plants are not limited to incinerating waste, squandering the heat produced by the combustion process, but are capable of "adding value" to the waste by recovering energy in the form of electricity, which is injected into the national grid, and heat, which is piped into homes or other premises in the area via a suitable distribution system, the district heating network. They can produce 850 million kWh of electricity, equivalent to the average consumption of around 300,000 families, and 200 million kWh of heat, equivalent to the average consumption of 14,000 homes - an energy production that would have required the use of 212,000 tonnes of oil.
    The only types of waste produced by the incineration and purification of the combustion fumes are ashes (approximately 20% of the treated waste weight) and particulates left over from the fume filtration process (approximately 3% of the treated waste weight). The ashes, consisting of mineral and metallic components left over from the combustion (non-hazardous waste), are normally sent for recovery using special processes to separate the metals and produce secondary raw materials for the cement industry. The particulates (hazardous waste) are pre-treated with a neutralisation process for subsequent disposal at an authorised plant.
    The rigorous monitoring of emissions is not only aimed at complying with legal requirements, but is, above all, a clear responsibility towards the stakeholders (citizens and institutions). This is why Herambiente publishes real-time emissions data on the appropriate dedicated section of its website. With the same aim of providing the best possible guarantee of quality and reliability, all emissions monitoring equipment is certified by TUV, one of the most authoritative certification bodies in the world.

    In addition to the above, the following measures for controlling emissions and environmental impacts are taken every year:

    • spot checks on flues, wastewater, waste, soil and subsoil at frequencies defined in the integrated environmental authorisation, carried out by certified laboratories;
    • checks on the impacts of pollutants on the soil: through external monitoring programmes in collaboration with universities and research bodies, analyses are carried out on soil depositions (land, plants, etc.) in order to ensure that the emissions, even if they are within the stringent legal limits, do not produce any significant impact on the surrounding environment.

    Particular emphasis is given to the Moniter programme, a joint initiative by the Emilia-Romagna Region and ARPA, with the main aim of "organising a system of environmental surveillance and epidemiological assessment in the areas around the incineration plants in Emilia-Romagna".
    All the waste-to-energy plants managed by Herambiente are monitored by this programme, thus providing the local population with additional information and knowledge.
    A summary of the Scientific Committee´s results and assessments is published on the website: http://www.arpa.emr.it/moniter/.


     
  • The rules on waste management were first established by Presidential Decree 915 of 10 September 1982 on the disposal of waste. As well as introducing a number of principles for defining systems to limit waste production, this subdivided waste into four types: municipal, special, toxic and harmful. In February 1997, this decree was superseded by Legislative Decree 22 (the "Ronchi Decree"), which focuses on preventing and reducing the quantity and hazardousness of waste.
    With Directive 1999/31/EC on the landfill of waste and the Italian transposing legislation (Legislative Decree 36/2003), a body of best practices was achieved in relation both to technical rules on the construction, management and post-management of the plants and to constraints on the acceptance of waste for landfill.
    Subsequently, with the Decree of 3 August 2005, "Definition of acceptability criteria for landfill waste", the legislator defined the operational criteria and procedures for the acceptability of waste at landfills, in compliance with the provisions set forth by Legislative Decree 36/2003.
    In April 2006, Legislative Decree 152 (the "Consolidated Environmental Act") came into force. This profoundly changed the legislative framework by introducing a wide range of innovations into the rules on environmental impact assessments and strategic environmental assessments, soil protection, water pollution prevention and water resources management, waste treatment and management, reclamation of contaminated sites, and pollution.
    With Legislative Decree 205 of 3 December 2010, the legislator transposed into Italian law the indications of the European Union concerning the policies to be adopted with regard to the disposal of waste, and defined the priorities for waste management on the basis of what represents the best environmental option in planning policy.

    Consequently, the disposal of waste in landfills represents the last level of the hierarchy in the integrated cycle of waste management, and plays an increasingly small role.
    The landfill system is used for the disposal of certain types of solid and sludge waste, both municipal and special.

    The legislation described above provides for 3 types of landfill:

    • inert waste;
    • non-hazardous waste (non-hazardous municipal and special waste);
    • hazardous waste (waste of mainly industrial and manufacturing origin).

    The system consists of the definitive storage of waste at a suitably prepared site, where it is compacted and arranged in strata for more efficient use of the surface area. At the end of each day, the refuse is covered with various types of material, such as geotextile fabric membranes or carbon foam sheets, excavated earth or other inert material, or the stabilised organic fraction (biostabilised or non-conforming compost) derived from the processing of the municipal waste itself.

    There are three types of landfill, according to the geo-morphological and hydrological characteristics of the site:

    • valley fill: created by filling old disused quarries or suitable ditches excavated on the land;
    • flat terrain: positioned on flat ground and enlarged upwards;
    • side hill: created by filling against the side of an incline, preferably with natural hollows or pits.

    To contain the entire mass of waste and prevent the diffusion and dispersion of leachates into the environment and the soil, protective barriers are created on the base and sides of the landfill, made from natural material (clay) and/or artificial material (polythene sheets).
    Landfill is undoubtedly the most impactful and least "productive" form of disposal.
    However, value can still be extracted even from this process, in the form of landfill gas.
    During decomposition, in addition to the production of leachates (sewage), which are drained off and sent to a purification plant for processing, biogas is produced. This consists mainly of methane and carbon dioxide, and is extracted by means of a system of pipes running through the interstrata of the waste. Once captured, the biogas is piped to suitable generators for the production of electricity. This operation also helps to prevent the spreading of foul odours through the air and makes it possible to lower emissions of methane (a greenhouse gas 20 times more potent than CO2) into the atmosphere, thus reducing the greenhouse effect in accordance with the principles of the Kyoto Protocol. The use of biogas for producing electricity also makes it possible to avoid the CO2 emissions produced by the combustion of conventional fossil fuels such as oil and coal. The positive effect is therefore twofold: there is a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions on the one hand, and an increase in the production of electricity from renewable sources on the other.
    In 2016, biogas was used to produce around 55 GWh of electricity, equivalent to the consumption of 17,800 families. Atmospheric emissions of around 26,000 tonnes of CO2 were also avoided.
    In addition to the above, the following measures for controlling emissions and environmental impacts are carried out every year: spot checks on electricity generator flues, wastewater, waste, soil, subsoil and air quality, at frequencies defined in the integrated environmental authorisation. These checks are carried out by certified laboratories.

     
  • According to the manner of collection, municipal waste is subdivided into unseparated municipal, separated dry and separated wet (organic and green) waste. In the Herambiente system, municipal waste collected separately by the environmental hygiene services is delivered to the separation or selection recovery plants, while most unseparated waste is sent directly to waste-to-energy or "pre-treatment" plants for separation of the wet fraction and subsequent biostabilisation. The separation and/or selection plants are divided into two main categories: DRY FRACTION RECOVERY PLANTS and MECHANICAL-BIOLOGICAL SEPARATION PLANTS. The first type of plant receives material obtained through the separated collection of dry fractions (paper, glass, plastic, etc.), while the second receives unseparated municipal waste (from grey bins), which undergoes a process of separation and material recovery (dry for incineration or landfill, wet for biostabilisation). Organic waste obtained from separated wet collection (organic kitchen waste, catering refuse, green waste, etc.) is taken to anaerobic biodigestion and composting plants.

    Residues from the selection and separation processes, which are not amenable to material recovery, are taken to waste-to-energy plants or to landfills for final disposal.

    SELECTION:

    The actual quantity of material recovered from separated waste depends on the quality of the collection and thus, to a large extent, on the care taken by the citizen in the initial disposal. In order to maximise material recovery, the waste obtained from separated collection of dry fractions (e.g. plastic, glass, paper, cardboard, tins, wood, ferrous metals, mixed materials, etc.) is passed through a selection plant, where any materials extraneous to the type of collection are discarded (non-reusable fractions). Herambiente´s selection plants process the municipal waste obtained from separated collection of the multi-material and mono-material fractions and of non-hazardous special waste, i.e. waste deriving from artisanal and industrial production activities that can be assimilated to municipal waste. The incoming waste is checked to ensure the conformity of the materials, and then sorted by type. If necessary, it is treated to remove any impurities that may be present, and then packaged and stored for subsequent recovery of material.

    The selection process, which is carried out automatically using state-of-the-art technologies such as optical readers, CHARACTERISES THE MATERIALS EITHER AS RECOVERABLE WASTE, in the specific sectors of the National Consortiums (CONAI), or as secondary raw materials, meaning products that can be sold and re-used in production plants.

     
  • The ecological platforms receive non-hazardous special waste and dry fractions of separated municipal waste. Here, after initial checking for acceptance and weighing, THE WASTE IS GROUPED BY MATERIAL, ready to be sent for recovery.

    The purpose of the transhipment or transfer plants is to optimise the logistics and transportation of unseparated waste destined for pre-treatment or incineration plants. Municipal waste is not subjected to any treatment, but simply transferred from small collection lorries to larger vehicles for subsequent delivery to the treatment plants.

     
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