„Zero Waste” Island – Sardinia

Zero Waste Europe                www.zerowasteeurope.eu


Ferran Rosa                        Email:info@zerowasteeurope.eu

Address: Chaussée de Vleurgat 15 B1050, Brussels (Belgium)
Phone: +32 (0) 02 736 20 91

Regione Autonoma della Sardegna              www.regione.sardegna.it/www.regione.sardegna.it

References: more information you can find here, here, here, here, here.









WHERE: Sardinia, Italy
WHEN:  2014-present (ongoing)                                                                                  WASTE MANAGEMENT HIERARCHY: Multiple – prevention, separate collection, recycling
TYPE OF INSTRUMENT: Regulatory/Voluntary
WASTE STREAMS: Municipal waste, Food and organic waste/garden waste

About:  Fifteen years ago Sardinia was Italy’s worst performing region in waste management. Today, it is the best performing island in the Mediterranean.

Sardinia was until 2003 in the rearguard of Italy and Europe in terms of waste management. With a separate collection rate of 3.8%, this popular tourist island used to send all the remaining waste to landfills and incineration.

However, a strategy based on the promotion of separate collection with particular attention to bio-waste, and a carefully designed system of incentives in combination with several municipalities championing the transition towards zero waste, is delivering results. In 2016 Sardinia collected separately 56% of its waste, and plans to reach 80% by 2022 over the whole island.

Track record of the production of municipal waste in Sardinia (figures expressed in                                  tonnes/year). Photo source: Zero Waste Europe


Starting from scratch, national and European targets on waste management were the main first drivers for Sardinia to start rethinking their system. The Landfill directive set staged targets on biowaste diversion from landfills and the prohibition of landfilling untreated waste.

These obligations were far from reality in 2003, with only two municipalities collecting biowaste in Sardinia and the average separate collection at 3.8%. However, in 2004 the Region of Sardinia set up a Regional Programme for Biowaste within its Waste Management Plan with a clear principle: while untreated biowaste was a hazard, if sorted and treated separately, it could be a benefit for the environment. The plan intended, hence, to make sure that biowaste stopped being a nuisance for the environment in landfills and that it became a benefit for soils as compost.


 Comparison of the amount of material separately collected in 2015 and 2014 (tons/year).                           Photo Source: Zero Waste Europe


The Programme set out the following measures:
• Compulsory separate collection of biowaste, including staged capture rates targets, aiming at collecting, at least 105 kg of biowaste per inhabitant by 2018.
• An increase of the landfill tax from the minimum set up in Italian law back then (10€/t) to the maximum (25.8€/t).
• The introduction of a bonus/malus system on the cost of residual waste management, to reward or penalize
• municipalities on the basis of their performance.
• The promotion of door-to-door as the preferred model for separate collection of waste, along with pay-asyou-throw schemes and home composting

In October 2017, to spread knowledge of best practices in waste management and prevention, Zero Waste Europe organised a study tour to Sardinia for city officials, civil society organisations and entrepreneurs in the waste sector. Many of the information from this case are provided from the study.


Although still far from perfect, Sardinia is today the best performing island in the Mediterranean in terms of waste management, and sits at the forefront of Italian and European regions.

The focus on bio-waste separate collection and the incentives to reduce residuals have proved very effective to drive a fast transition. Indeed, separate collection rates in Sardinia have improved year on year since the obligation of separate collection of biowaste, reaching 60% in 2016.

At the same time, waste generation per capita has decreased consistently, moving from 520 kg per inhabitant in 2003 to 443 kg per inhabitant in 2016.

These two figures combined result in a significant reduction of residual waste that has decreased from 500 kg per inhabitant in 2003 to 176 kg per inhabitant in 2016.

Although still far from perfect, Sardinia is today the best performing island in the Mediterranean in terms of waste management, and sits at the forefront of Italian and European regions.

Oristano is Sardinia’s best performing provincial capital. With door-todoor collection covering its 32,000 inhabitants, the town has reached 75.6% separate collection and 117 kg per inhabitant of residual waste in 2016 and reached over 80% in 2017 without pay-as-you-throw system.

Tortolì is a touristy coastal town in Eastern Sardinia of eleven thousand people. Tortolì today reaches 90% separate collection and barely produced 53kg of residual waste per inhabitant in 2017. Four civic amenity sites complement the system, allowing citizens to have greater flexibility; one of these is located on the coast to serve the tourists.

Urban metabolism relevance


By reducing the amount of waste generated, increasing separate collection and reducing landfilling, were automatically reduced greenhouse gas emissions water and soil pollution; the compost resulted from biodegradable waste contributes to the sustainable growth of vegetables in the region; these measures also contribute to preserving the health of the population and tourists and are a good example of how proper waste management has a positive impact on the entire urban metabolism of a region/city.

Photo Source: Zero Waste Europe


Through its Waste Management Plan of 2008, the region of Sardinia introduced a system of incentives aimed at rewarding those municipalities with high separate collection rates, while penalising those lagging behind.

Although initially planned for a couple of years, the effectiveness of the system has meant that it has remained in place for over 10 years.

The system is simple: the region sets a target separate collection rate that is slightly above the average to truly incentivise improvement. This target is reviewed periodically.

Except for a certain amount in the middle that keep balanced, those municipalities below the target have a surcharge on the residual waste disposal cost, while those above the target rate receive a bonus on it. The system is fully balanced internally.


Engaged participatory processes

Waste management powers in Italy are distributed between different authorities. Municipalities are in charge of separate collection of waste, supra-municipal authorities (provinces or districts) are in charge of waste treatment, and regions have set up waste management plans and coordinate the provincial and local policies.

A smooth coordination between all three levels is therefore key to ensure that transition happens. In this case, the Region of Sardinia has managed to drive policies effectively, setting up the right rules and incentives for municipalities and guiding principles for provinces and districts to move forward.

Sustainability and replicability

European targets, the regional government aims at rolling out door-to-door separate collection and pay-as-you-throw schemes across the whole island.

Additionally, the Region is planning to raisethe target of separate collection set out for the system of incentives that is currently at 65% to avoid penalties, and 70% to get rewarded.

All this measures are very common in Europe, have proven their effectiveness throughout the years and should be replicated as quickly as possible in all European countries.

Photo Source: Zero Waste Europe

Success Factors

• The focus on bio-waste separate collection and the incentives to reduce residuals have proved very effective to drive a fast transition.

• Although there is still large room for improvement, the significant reduction of residual waste has made the island significantly less dependent on large facilities for disposal, raising questions for the need of the two incinerators currently in operation on the island.

• Visual signs for sorting (instead of written ones) and some translated versions on the beaches have also helped reaching out more easily the floating population

• One civic amenity is available on the outskirts of the city and complements the door-to-door collection. In the past they had bring-in points to provide flexibility to tourists and residents, but these easily became hotspots for illegal dumping. Today, 6 mobile collection points have proved to work efficiently in providing extra flexibility to residents and tourists, while reducing the illegal dumping.


Waste, Resources, Innovation.

Key Challenges


Despite the good results so far, in its new Waste Management Plan of 2016, the Region is looking beyond the level of ambition of the European Commission and has set very ambitious targets by 2022, among which:

  • 70% recycling target
  • 80% separate collection of waste
  • 10% reduction on the relation between waste and GDP on the basis of 2010


For more information, please check the deliverable, or contact the implementing body.

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