«Do you believe in the future of this youth that is taking to the streets for climate change?». In March 2019 on La Repubblica, in the midst of the Greta Thunberg phenomenon, Costa answered dryly: «Very much, this rally is a cry of pain. I prefer to call it a demonstration and not a strike. These young people aren’t wasting time, they are investing in it. My children are grown up, they don’t go to school anymore, but if they weren’t as a father I would push them to skip school to spend that day building their own future».
Sergio Costa, before becoming Minister of the Environment, was the face of the Carabinieri and, as a General, led the toxic waste investigation in the Land of Fires.
In another interview with Corriere della Sera, he talked about his commitment, explaining what the investigative technique, which allowed them to find about twenty toxic waste dumps in two years in that area, was based on. «We did not rely on informants: we found the landfills starting from the constant magnetic fields of the earth's crust», he explained. «It’s a battle that as a man I would rather not leave. As a minister, I know that I have to deal with many other things, but that’s still on my mind».
At his settlement as a minister, which ironically took place on June 5, 2018, World Environment Day, he announced his road map: «strong and effective actions against climate change are at the top of my list. Such as the fight against eco-mafias, the safeguarding of the land, parks and marine areas. I am used to taking my work very seriously and I will continue to do so».
A clear and precise path as well as the model at the center of all his actions: circular economy. As he defined as “our lighthouse” and explained in a timely manner during the Petrolio su Rai Uno show, that aired December 1, 2018.
L'#EconomiaCircolare è il vero futuro, siamo stati abituati all'economia lineare, da oggi bisogna cambiare. Ciò che oggi è #rifiuto deve essere rimesso in circolo con una nuova vita, cosi avremo più #lavoro e ridurremo il consumo di materie prime del #pianeta @tg1online
— Sergio Costa (@SergioCosta_min) November 27, 2018
(#CircularEconomy is the true future. We are used to the linear economy, but starting today we have to change. What is today #waste must be put back into circulation with a new life, and as a result we will have more #employment and we can reduce the use of raw materials of #planet @tg1online)
«The repurposing, upcycling and recycling that characterize the circular economy allow us to imagine a new system of doing environmental business, in which entrepreneurs are guaranteed success, and the citizen healthy products», he explained to the monthly magazine Vita, «If packaging is seen from a different perspective, the product will be re-used and the secondary raw materials can become a resource. We will work to reduce waste production and implement the circular economy through, for example, an end-of-waste regulation and the creation of re-use and recycling platforms».
We will work to reduce waste production and implement the circular economy through an end-of-waste regulation
During Ecofuturo 2018, the fair that brings together entrepreneurs and inventors who come up with innovative solutions with very high environmental sustainability, the minister participated with a recorded speech in which he explained that «we must make sure that something changes. That's why I’m going to the European Union to talk about these issues and climate change. Because it can’t just be a single country’s commitment».
In April 2018 the European Parliament launched the circular economy package, which was received by Costa as a container of important new elements: «ambitious objectives for effective recycling of urban waste; an ambitious target to reduce landfill disposal (10% by 2035); new packaging targets; new important challenges for food waste and marine litter; recognition of the importance of recycling collection as a necessary tool for waste repuroposing». A decision which highlighted how «looking at the national situation, in certain areas (recycling of packaging and minimum requirements of Extended Producer Responsibility systems) we can consider ourselves a very advanced country, which leaves little to nothing to do to align with the new provisions». But in other areas, «there is still a long way to go».
The future path is clear. «The removal of bureaucratic obstacles is the starting point to boost the circular economy, which must be supported with an incentive fiscal policy, providing, for example, pricing schemes and Extended Producer Responsibility, measures to encourage efficient collection of used products and an increased sustainable public procurement». A path that the Government has undertaken: «I can confirm that we are working on a rule to reduce plastic waste with which we can help entrepreneurs and the production chain, in order to stop producing packaging, often made of plastic, and to use tax credits, to make entrepreneurs our allies, not our opposers, in the battle for environmental protection».
The repurposing, upcycling and recycling that characterize the circular economy allow us to imagine a new system of doing environmental business
But so much is still to be done: «the time has come to stop focusing on incineration, but on a quality recycling system, that is crucial to gradually approaching our "zero waste" objective. Reducing waste means thinking and producing in a sustainable way». A battle that the minister acknowleges is also cultural. «We need to address consumer choices. To do this, in addition to acting on the fiscal lever, we plan to reward people who buy products with less or no packaging with a financial advantage. It is crucial to raise awareness, so since my establishment I have promoted the campaign #IoSonoAmbiente (#IamThe Environment), launching the "Plastic free challenge" to national and local institutions». A war against plastic in which Costa wants to involve all sectors of civil society: «schools, committees and voluntary groups», aiming to drastically reduce long-term production.
Direct employment in urban waste recycling activities alone could grow by around 11.000 in the southern regions
The South, at the center of his military activity, has not been forgotten, Costa announced: «as shown by some studies, among the causes of the critical areas of recycling collection in the South there are underperforming local administrations, the inadequacy of the companies that carry out the collection of waste, the lack of treatment plants for organic waste, the insufficient use of financing and, more generally, the failure to take into account the objectives of recycling collection».
The minister knows that in the South the problem has an impact that goes beyond the environment. «Comieco and the Foundation for sustainable development have calculated that the employment benefit for the South determined by the increase in the recycling of plastic, glass and paper in urban waste could be of about 7 thousand new jobs by 2030 and that direct employment in the Southern regions exclusively from urban waste recycling, with the recovery of recycling delays, could grow by about 11 thousand units».