Hera Group manage the collection and disposal of waste for 3.3 million inhabitants, with important environmental results, but is also committed to help communities to prevent waste, in a circular economy perspective and according to the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 12. This is the aim of Ciboamico, Farmacoamico and Cambia il finale projects, that together with other waste prevention initiatives in 2017 have prevented around 10,000 tonnes of waste.
Hera has recently adopted a new strategic approach based on Creating Shared Value, according to which a company increases its business while generating positive impacts on society. In the last few years, business models oriented to meet emergent social needs have proliferated while the role of economic actors within the society has progressively changed from organizations pursuing mere economic returns and exclusively focused on customers to enterprises embedded in a social context through stakeholders relationships. Emergent social needs are acknowledged as a leverage to promote innovation and competitiveness. This approach represents the new frontier in Hera corporate commitment.
Hera is redefining its business model bearing in mind the social needs detected by the policies issued at local, regional, national and global level by Institutions (e.g. UN and European Commission or Italian Government). The reason behind this choice depends on the power held by such policies to motivate all actors in taking a clear action and to influence the change. The Sustainable Development Goals, together with other 45 policies, have been analysed to define 9 impact areas (cross-policy pools that gather several commitments and targets), regrouped into 3 Drivers or lines of strategic development, representing a “Call to Action”. The activities that generate operating margins for the company and simultaneously meet the priorities set forth by the Global Agenda are thus represented as Shared Value.
The waste management sector need to be transformed in a circular economy perspective, represented by the SDG 12, Responsible Consumption and Production. Circular economy is one of the 9 impact areas in which Hera creates Shared Value, a priority both for the company's business sector, which operates in the collection and treatment of waste, and for the weight it has acquired in global policies, primarily the UN 2030 Agenda and the European Circular Economy Package.
A circular economy is an economic system designed to regenerate on its own. It is a new paradigm of economic development where raw materials and natural resources do not end their useful life after first use but "live" longer through recycling, reuse, extending product’s life and thanks to the sharing economy facilitated by the new communication technologies, that enable a shift from property to temporary possession of goods.
Hera Group manage the collection, sorting and disposal of waste for a large part of territory in the north of Italy with 3.3 million inhabitants, and its contribution to circular economy is primarily related to the European targets for urban waste management, with respect to which the territory served by Hera is well in advance of the reduction in landfilling (7% in 2017, almost 20 years in advance of an EU target ≤10% in 2035) and the recycling rate of packaging (68% in 2016, reaching the EU target of 65% in 2025) and in line with the recycling rate of urban waste overall (48% to 2016 compared to an EU target of 55% to 2025). More generally, Hera's contribution to the transition to a more circular economy is both in the technical cycle (non-renewable materials) and in the biological cycle, with renewable energy production from organic waste.
Those are important results, but the circular economy is not just a matter of recycling waste, addressing the problem from the "tail". It also need acting from the "head", starting at design stages having already in mind all the life cycle of goods, and avoiding unnecessary waste. In fact, a part of the waste collected consist of goods that could still be used, but that must be disposed of as waste, according to regulations, since they end up in the waste stream. The extent of the problem at a national and European level is huge, and brings with it important environmental and social impacts, as well as significant cost for the society.
Waste prevention is on top of the European Waste Hierarchy, introduced for the first time in EU regulation by the Directive 2008/98/EC on waste. The following steps are preparation for reuse and only at the third place recycling. Waste prevention is also confirmed as a priority action by the European Package on the Circular Economy, stated to be the most efficient way to improve resource efficiency and to reduce the environmental impact of waste. The revised Directive on Waste, among other things, includes target for preventing food waste in line with the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. In order to contribute to achieving the objectives laid down in the Directive, Member States should make use of economic instruments and other measures to provide incentives for the application of the waste hierarchy such as facilitation of food donation and incentives.
The European Directive 2008/98/EC on waste was transposed into Italian Law by Legislative Decree 205/2010 and Italy is currently working on the transposition of the new Directives of the Circular Economy Package. Emilia-Romagna’s Regional Law 16/2015 on “Provisions in support of the circular economy, the reduction of the production of urban waste, the reuse of end-of-life goods, separate collection and amendments to Regional Law N. 31 of 19 August 1996” also includes provisions to support waste prevention, including the possibility to grant, in the framework of the regulation on the fees for waste management services, incentives for companies that implement actions aimed at waste prevention.
Hera has developed and participated innumerous initiatives aimed at encouraging waste prevention. This commitment is in line with the new European, national and regional regulations which, as seen above, introduced prevention and reuse targets as an integral part of integrated waste management. Thanks to those initiatives, around 10,000 tonnes of waste have been prevented, the equivalent of the annual output of 16,300 people.
Hera Group, with the support of a technical and scientific partner – the University spin-off Last Minute Market – and thanks to a network of private and public bodies, has developed and is managing three main waste prevention projects: Ciboamico, Farmacoamico and Cambia il finale. Those projects are possible only thanks to the participation and collaboration of citizens, and demonstrate that community engagement is a key element in transforming cities in sustainable environments, as requested by the SDG 11, Sustainable cities and communities.
Cambia il finale (change the ending) is the project aiming at giving a new life to objects that can still be used and promote a virtuous, fair circuit of reuse. With this project, the bulky waste that is still in good condition is saved from disposal and reused. When citizens call the Customer Service toll free phone line to request home collection of bulky waste, they are given contact details for no-profit organisations locally that will pick up the goods with their regular service and reuse it for social purposes. The project is active in 80 municipalities where Hera, together with 20 no-profit organizations, manages the pickup service free of charge. The no-profit organizations have involved several municipalities, more than 1,100 volunteers, and have supported 360 social inclusion recruitments, 99 of which directly involved in the project. From a Circular Economy point of view, the project has generated environmental, social as well as economic value: For every Euro invested, the project has generated 1.32 Euro (SROI Index). In 2017, 866 tons of bulky waste have been collected, and the 70% of it have been processed and re-used.
Through FarmacoAmico project, since 2013 Hera collects medicines with an adequate conservation state and at least 6 months from expiry date, and distributes them to no-profit organizations. The project aims at preventing hazardous waste while promoting best practices in waste reduction and supporting social assistance organizations, thus contributing to SDG 3, Good health and well-being, with a consequent economic return for local administrations mainly due to reduced social assistance costs. In three years the municipalities involved have increased from six to eleven, covering 44% of the population served in the territory where Hera operates. In 2017, 53,000 medicine packs have been collected in 13 municipalities. In 2018 Hera, Last Minute Market and the Emilia Romagna region signed a Memorandum of Understanding to strengthen the commitment to medicines waste reduction, promoter the recovery of unused ones and limit the negative impacts on the environment. At the same time they aim to support the Third Sector projects aimed at waste prevention, to enhance the results and to promote the activation of new ones; but also to organize initiatives to raise awareness of public administrations and citizens.
Started in 2009, Cibo Amico is the project against food waste, that allows the collection of meals prepared but not consumed at the 5 Hera canteens. The retrieved food is donated to 6 no-profit organizations assisting 140 people in 8 locations every day. Since the project started, more than 80,000 meals were retrieved, for a value of over Euro 327,000. The corresponding saved waste amounts to more than 35 tons, circa 5.7 tons only in 2017. The project contribute to SDG 2, Zero hunger, in particular to the first target: By 2030, end hunger and ensure access by all people, in particular the poor and people in vulnerable situations, including infants, to safe, nutritious and sufficient food all year round.