Waste: with the “NETWAP” project, small-scale composting experimentation in Italy and Croatia is now under way


Small-scale composting, technologies for recovering and recycling plastics, monitoring of microplastics in the sea. These are the main achievements of the NETWAP[1] project financed by the Italy-Croatia Interreg call for proposals with a budget of about €1.5 million, which in Italy involved ENEA, Unioncamere Veneto, Fondazione Fenice Onlus of Padua and GAL Molise verso il 2000. In Croatia, participants included the Municipality of Zadar (project leader), the Ruder Bošković Institute and Čistoća, the Zadar province company responsible for waste management.

Electromechanical composters with a total capacity of 30 tonnes per year were installed at two sites: in the Municipality of Fossalto (Campobasso) in Molise and on the island of Ist in Croatia. It was thanks to this action that separate collection of organic waste was introduced for the first time on the Croatian island, and Molise recorded the first case of the launch of a local composting experience.

"With this project, we have experimented with the application of small-scale composting and proposed a management system for plastic collected on the beach, for the benefit of locales that are often far from collection and treatment services, which in the summer season are subject to considerable tourist pressure linked either to the natural beauty or the presence of archaeological sites", explains Lorenzo Maria Cafiero, researcher at the ENEA Laboratory of Technologies for the Reuse, Recycling, Recovery and Exploitation of Waste and Materials. "We have succeeded in overcoming existing practices in organic fraction management by supporting local authorities and economic operators, through methodologies converted into local policy tools, targeted training and the provision of the technology itself. In this we have taken the first step towards adopting a cross-border approach to waste based on effective international cooperation and in keeping with the EU waste hierarchy and the principles of the circular economy", adds Cafiero.

"Proximity composting, i.e. composting close to the place of production, is particularly suitable for all those isolated communities that are difficult to reach by the traditional system of collection and transport to industrial treatment plants. As organic waste is mainly composed of water, we too often see lorries mostly carrying water, with unsustainable environmental impacts. Often with simple solutions we can increase the capacity of communities to manage their own problems", stresses Fabio Musmeci, a researcher at the ENEA Laboratory.

Italy has a great “tradition” in efficient waste management. According to the European Environment Agency, the percentage of recycled and composted municipal waste in Italy more than doubled between 2004 and 2016 and our country is among the EU leaders in separate collection, especially of organic waste, and with the highest share of waste sent for composting. Organic waste is the most abundant fraction of municipal waste (20-30%). It is potentially a source of disease due to the risk of growth of pathogenic bacteria, but at the same time if properly treated it can produce compost through which soil desertification can be combated. For the purposes of the circular economy, it is very important to prevent this fraction from being dispersed in undifferentiated waste and therefore in landfills or incinerators. In the case of landfill, it is the source of anaerobic fermentation processes that lead to the production of methane (greenhouse gas). The waste directive of the circular economy package pushes for the reduction of the organic fraction in unsorted waste and points to small-scale composting as an important tool to achieve this goal.

"With the NETWAP project we have identified new solutions to improve the quality of the environment in the areas of the Italy-Croatia cooperation area. But above all we are committed to increasing the awareness, capacity, know-how and decision-making autonomy of local communities towards a new sustainable waste management, based on innovative technologies and procedures", Cafiero concludes.

Organic waste aside, the project has also tested "Seabin", a system that filters sea water to collect plastics, microplastics, oils and detergents before reaching the open sea, in Vitrenjak (Uskok marina), Croatia. Once collected, the plastics were sorted by homogeneous polymer class, washed and proven to be recyclable through extrusion tests.


For more information:

Lorenzo Maria Cafiero, ENEA - Laboratory of Technologies for the Reuse, Recycling, Recovery and Exploitation of Waste and Materials, lorenzo.cafiero@enea.it

Netwap Project video

[1] Network of small “in situ” Waste Prevention and management initiatives

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