EU wades in to tackle Naples waste chaos

The waste crisis affecting Naples and the surrounding region which has seen thousands of tonnes of rubbish left rotting in the streets has finally forced the hand of the European commission, which is to take legal action against Italy.

In recent weeks, political mismanagement, conflicting interests and mob influence has led to the rubbish piling up, threatening disease as well as polluting air, land and water supplies.

Frustrated residents have, in many places, torches the rubbish heaps in an effort to remove the problem.

The Italian Government’s grip on the waste management industry in the south of the country is historically less than vice-like, with environmental NGOs fingering organised crime groups as part of the problem.

In Naples and the surrounding Campania region the Camorra criminal clans target waste disposal and the unregulated dumping of industrial waste, and subsequent environmental damage, is well documented.

The government also claims that the clans are involved in the transport of municipal waste.

The European Commission, however, has now told Rome to get its house in order and has said it considers that the region’s waste disposal installations are inadequate and pose serious problems for human health and the environment, constituting a violation of EU waste legislation.

In parallel the commission is assessing government plans to open four new waste landfill sites in Campania to check their compliance with EU law and to understand if they will help solve the region’s waste problems, especially in the longer term.

“The television reports we have all seen showing piles of garbage rotting in the streets of Campania or set on fire by angry residents have been truly shocking,” said Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas.

“I urge the Italian authorities to act urgently to bring waste management facilities in the Campania region up to standard so that waste is collected and disposed of without endangering human health or the environment, as European law requires.”

The region’s waste management woes include a lack of municipal waste collection and the illegal disposal of waste, including in urban areas.

The health risks posed by the piles of rubbish left in the streets has forced the closure of schools, while the risk from pollution has been aggravated by residents setting fire to the uncollected waste, releasing toxic substances into the environment.

A recent study coordinated by the World Health Organisation showed increased mortality rates among people living near illegal waste dumps in the region.

The EC has now sent Rome a formal letter of warning, the first step in a legal process which could eventually see Italy racking up huge fines.

Sam Bond

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