While ‘recovery from waste’ is becoming a popular expression, in some old industrialisation Countries it remains a highly controversial and paralyzing issue. This seminar explores why moving from mentioning the problem to its solutions requires the description of an extended and complex system: ranging from the design of goods and the individual styles of consumption to the infrastructure needed to operate an integrated waste management system and the analytical calculation of public health risk.

As for many environmental problems, waste management is a ‘wicked problem’, and there is nothing worse than treating such a type of problem as if it were a ‘classical problem’. In this case, describing is an essential  step of solving. Finding a solution becomes difficult when, as it is too often the case, the problem of waste generation and management is considered by fragments: some like to talk only about recycling, the recovery of matter, others prefer to highlight the role of incinerators, the energy recovery. But the constraints of natural laws require that matter and energy be considered together.

Dealing with wastes should rise above partiality and move towards a higher level of data organisation and analysis, to define an objective knowledge providing the basis for the implementation of the most effective legislation and planning strategies. This seminar presents a method based on life cycle thinking for the description of integrated waste management systems: to optimise the recovery strategy different waste management scenarios are assessed and compared on the basis of selected environmental impacts; to correctly define the infrastructure needed to operate an integrated system this analysis has to be performed at the national and regional scale. The complexity of the problem requires that in order to design implementable solutions, with a positive effect on the community, a waste strategy must result from a shared discussion and an ample confrontation, thus the determining role of building an actor network is also discussed.

This seminar has been jointly organized by FEEM and IEFE, Bocconi University.