Italian waste disposal under the spotlight

Parliamentarians highlight "worrying" grip of criminal gangs in southern regions

Italy is making significant strides towards more professional and technologically advanced waste disposal. But in southern regions, organised criminal groups are taking an increasing stranglehold over the entire cycle, from management of landfills to waste trafficking and dumping. The government must act urgently to combat a "worrying" situation that has produced grave environmental damage.

These were the conclusions of a debate in parliament last week on a report produced by the parliamentary commission on waste disposal and connected illegal activities. Released last October, the report monitors progress in implementing the 1997 "Ronchi" decree which launched a reform of Italy's waste management system.

The decree's main aims are to reduce waste generation and to cut landfilling and incineration without energy recovery, while promoting recovery and recycling. It incorporates the EU definition of dangerous waste materials and also regulates waste produced by the food industry.

The Commission's report concludes that Italy remains a "three-speed" country in its waste disposal practices. Northern Italy generally has an up-to-date integrated refuse system, the centre falls some way short of this standard, while all the main southern regions are lagging even more seriously behind.

In Campania, Lazio, Calabria and Sicily, "worrying" evidence has been gathered on the involvement of criminal organisations in the whole waste cycle, but also of illicit behaviour by apparently respectable firms and of corrupt local officials. According to the report, hazardous waste is being trafficked from one region to another and even being disposed of or re-used for building and road surfacing materials.

"The Mafia, the 'Nndrangheta [in Calabria], the Camorra [in Campania] and other such organisations aim to fill every possible area where there are profits to be made, putting themselves forward as mediators between local authorities and companies, between the State and the market," the report warns.

Follow Up:
Italian parliament, tel: +39 06 67601.

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