Milan is a city with 1.36 million inhabitants and 800,000 commuters, within an area of only 182 km2, thus there are some critical issues such as lack of space within the city, and a high quantity of produced waste.

Adopting the Environmental Management System according to ISO 14001 regulations, the city has developed an “Integrated waste collection and disposal system” to recycle the largest possible portion of material and to produce electricity and heat through the incineration of non-recyclable materials in a Waste-to-Energy facility. With this system, the city has achieved separation of 43% of municipal solid waste (MSW) collected in 2013, with 0% of landfill disposal.

What Is It?

Milan Case Study First

The EU has established that by 2020 member states must reuse or recycle at least 50% of their MSW, and Italy defined a target of 65% to be reached by law by 2016.

Milan ranks very high among European metropolitan areas in its separation and collection rates: due to the introduction of transparent bags and the implementation of organic waste collection for households in all quarters of the city, Milan’s waste separation and collection rate could reach 50% by 2014.

How Does It Work?

The “Integrated system” of waste collection in Milan includes:

  • 44,000 street bins
  • 280 receptacles for paper and glass 
  • bulky waste collection service at home and free of charge
  • “door to door collection” over the whole city (55,000 collection points) with bins for paper, glass, organic waste and bags for light metals, plastic and residual waste
  • 5 civic amenity sites for hazardous and bulky waste

Benefits of curbside waste collection are:

  • best quality of collected waste
  • limited street exposure of waste
  • positive effects on appearance of the city

Bins are given to citizens and waste storage is on private premises and brought to the street on specific days and times.

Itineraries and pick-up schedules are designed to reduce the impact of garbage trucks on city traffic. (All pick-up services are carried out between 5.50 am and 11.30 am, in the city center - highest traffic area - is served before 8.15 am).

Household waste collection uses the most innovative technology, and services are performed with over 1,200 vehicles, 29% running on CNG. Citizens deposit plastic waste in yellow sacks, together with aluminium and light metals; paper and cardboard go into white bins, glass in green bins and organic waste in brown bins, all subject to separate household collection.

Waste streams are treated in different facilities, whereas sorting and recycling of materials takes place in one facility. An A2AA* Waste-to-Energy facility processes the city’s residual waste and can generate and distribute up to 184.6 MW of electricity and district heating for the northern part of Milan. Cogeneration of electricity and heat from biogas is derived from an A2AA closed landfill.

New targets for Milan in the future are to increase the segregated collection rate; maintain high standards of public service in terms of low impacts on citizenship (impact on traffic, noise, etc.); and, finally, to improve the quantity and quality of recyclable waste streams.

Milan’s separation and collection rates reached 34.5% in 2011. To meet these targets, Amsa, the public-private agency that helps Milan to carry forward its environmental initiatives, launched a two-step program in 2012:

Introduction of a transparent bag to replace the black bag for residual waste. Waste composition analysis of residual waste revealed a good percentage of glass, paper, plastics and organics that could still be recovered. The city’s goal was to divert recyclable materials from the residual waste stream. The transparent bag coupled with a campaign of communication/information and supported by targeted controls, has thus far given increased quantities of plastic (+1%), paper (+0.7%) and glass (+0.2%) collected.

The collection of household organic waste and the introduction of a “door to door” commercial bio-waste collection service. These are delivered through a four-step implementation programme for the whole city per a Mayor Ordinance and supported by a public awareness and information campaign for each step.

Milan Case Study 1

This program has:

  • purchased waste trucks and equipment 
  • restructured transfer stations 
  • reorganized waste collection services 
  • implemented the process for waste composition analysis for monitoring

Amsa distributes a starting kit with compostable waste sacks and a brown small 10 liter bin for all the households involved, a brown High Density PolyEthylene (HDPE) 35 liter bin with handles and locks for small buildings with less than five households, and curbside 120 liter bins for larger buildings with more than five households.

Next Steps

The first outcomes of the introduction of organic waste collection in the first quarter of the city are very positive, with around 1.73 kilograms per habitant. per week of collected waste, commercial activities included (expected yearly quantity around 90 kilograms per habitant.) The second phase shows values and trends similar to the first phase. The first analysis of waste composition showed high quality of household’s organic waste. The third phase was implemented in December 2012, and citywide collection of household organic waste will be reached by June 2014. With this system, the city is on course to achieve EU recycling targets .

* A2AA (A2A Ambiente) is part of A2A Group, the multi-utility company leader in Italy in waste and energy sector. Amsa, providing environmental services to the city of Milan for over 100 years (waste collection and cleansing services), is now part of A2AA.


Comune di Milano
Assessore Ambiente, Mobilità, Metropolitane, 
Acqua Pubblica, Energia
Pierfrancesco Maran
Via Beccaria 19
20121 Milano