1.1 Background to the Study
The production and management of waste is a strategic issue for all countries, since it has social, economic and environmental implications. It would be desirable to combine responsible social behaviour, economic feasibility and environmental sustainability, but various parties are involved (citizens, firms, public administrations), often with conflicting needs. This article deals with Italian companies operating in the collection, treatment and disposal of municipal solid waste (MSW). The aim is to analyse the profitability of these companies and try to understand whether this is related to waste management "best practices", in particular separate collection (SC). European Directives 2006/12 and 2008/98 encourage member countries to base their own legislation on control of the entire waste cycle, from production to disposal, applying the socalled “hierarchical principle”, which identifies prevention of negative environmental impacts deriving from waste production as the primary objective, followed, in order of priority, by reuse, recycling, recovery of another type (such as energy production) and, lastly, disposal. It will therefore be attempted to identify whether greater environmental sustainability can produce positive effects on the economic-financial results of companies operating in said sector. The article is organised as follows: the first paragraph analyses the literature on the issue in question; the third paragraph outlines the research method; the fourth paragraph analyses the results of the empirical analysis performed; the final paragraph contains the conclusions.