Naples waste management crisis

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Uncollected garbage in Naples, 2010.

The Naples waste management crisis is a series of events surrounding the lack of waste collection primarily in the Province of Naples, Campania, Italy, that took place from 1994 to 2012.[1]


A car flooded with waste in Aversa in February 2008

Since the mid-1990s, Naples and the Campania region have suffered from the dumping of municipal solid waste into overfilled landfills. Another problem was that Pianura's garbage dump in Naples was filled by North Italy's industries and garbage from other Italian regions.[2][3] In 1994, a state of emergency was declared in Campania by Prime Minister Carlo Azeglio Ciampi, and created the Committee for the Waste Emergency in Campania (Commissariato di Governo per l'emergenza rifiuti in Campania).[4] Beginning on 21 December 2007, the municipal workers refused to pick up any further material; as a result, the waste had begun to appear as regular fixtures on the streets of Naples, posing grave health risks to the metropolitan population. On 31 December, the government closed one of two major dumps near the city at the request of the city's residents.

Reports during the summer of 2008 stated that the problem was caused at least in part by the Camorra, a powerful local mafia based in Campania, who had created a lucrative business in the municipal waste disposal business, mostly in a region which became known as the Triangle of Death. With the complicity of industrial companies, heavy metals, industrial waste, and chemicals and household waste are frequently mixed together, then dumped near roads and burned to avoid detection, leading to severe soil and air pollution.[5]

The situation worsened during this period as the Camorra diversified their illegal waste disposal strategy: 1) transporting and dumping hazardous waste in the countryside by truck; 2) dumping waste in illegal caves or holes; 3) mixing toxic waste with textiles to avoid explosions and then burning it; and 4) mixing toxic with urban waste for disposal in landfills and incinerators.[4]

Government dumping plans[edit]

Since the 1990s, Governor of Naples Antonio Bassolino turned the city into a political stronghold for his campaigns. His inability and failings to address the waste in the city highlighted by the media destroyed the image of his administration.[6] In January 2008 Romano Prodi’s government announced plans for the solution of the crisis, including the building of three new incinerators. Prodi appointed a former national police chief as waste commissioner and the army was called in to bulldoze the waste from the streets of Caserta, while protesters clashed with police in central Naples. But no real progress had been made by May of that year, when Prodi's government was defeated in the general election. At that time over 200,000 tons of waste still remained on the streets.

Crisis management[edit]

Some "ecobales" being stored, destined for incineration

The newly elected Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi took immediate action, and held his first cabinet meeting in Naples.[7] He then appointed a new waste commissioner, Guido Bertolaso (then the head of the Civil Protection Department). Bertolaso faced similar protests from the residents of Naples, but during June and July 2008 he dealt with the problem by force opening landfills. In addition he sent 700 tons of rubbish a day to incinerators in Hamburg, Germany, while new incinerators were built locally.[8] By July 17, 2008, Berlusconi declared that the emergency had ended.[9][4] By September the rubbish had been removed from the streets of Naples.[10] Seven million tons of waste stored as "ecobales", destined for incineration, were accumulated by the end of the crisis.[4]

In 2009, the Acerra incineration facility was completed at a cost of over €350 million. The incinerator burns 600,000 tons of waste per year to produce refuse-derived fuel. The energy produced from the facility is enough to power 200,000 households per year.[11]

In March 2009, waste commissioner Bertolaso was transferred to Rome, to deal with a new high-profile problem[citation needed] even though great amounts of garbage were still stocked in temporary sites awaiting to be disposed of. Likewise, in many municipalities on Naples' periphery, there is still a garbage problem. Though Berlusconi's actions have cleaned up the city of Naples, one account states that, as of September 2009, "the highways and byways of the rural south remain festering dumping grounds."[12]

Newsweek reported that in October 2010, riots near Terzigno halted garbage collection again in Naples, leading to "overflowing bins and renewed international attention", and "new calls for [Berlusconi's] resignation and allegations that his government is in bed with the mob". The riots occurred after the government announced another 3-million-metric-ton landfill would be constructed within Vesuvius National Park; residents, already upset by toxic waste levels at a nearby landfill, were said to believe that much of the garbage going into the new landfill would be "illegally imported by the Camorra" and would be similarly uncontrolled.[13]

The newly elected mayor of Naples Luigi de Magistris, a former antimafia magistrate, faced the waste management issue from the early days of his mandate. As a result of his efforts, in the period between June and November 2011, the quantity of uncollected garbage in the streets declined from 2500 tons to zero. A plan of differentiated waste collection was implemented, and reached levels of 70% over the 300,000 inhabitants involved. When the bid for the construction of an incinerator facility was abandoned, this approach was also discarded, together with the construction of new landfills, and garbage transfer to the Netherlands by boat was preferred.[14] According to this strategy, a contract was signed with the Dutch company AVR, which manages the Rotterdam incinerator, to transfer Naples garbage to the Netherlands at the rate of one ship-load per week. The initial operations have been allocated to the ship Nordstern, which in early January 2012, started the transfer.[15][16]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Sito della Presidenza del Consiglio dei Ministri (ed.). "Consiglio dei Ministri n. 76/09" (PDF).
  2. ^ Simone, Amalia De (26 September 2012). "Lo scandalo della discarica di Pianura" – via
  3. ^ "Rifiuti, ex discarica di Pianura: qui si muore di cancro più che nelle altre zone di Napoli". Il Fatto Quotidiano. 21 November 2010.
  4. ^ a b c d D'Alisa, Giacomo; Burgalassi, David; Healy, Hali; Walter, Mariana (2010). "Conflict in Campania: Waste emergency or crisis of democracy". Ecological Economics. 70 (2): 239–249.
  5. ^ Mafia at centre of Naples' rubbish mess 9 January 2008. By Emmanuelle Andreani. Der Spiegel: In Naples, Waste Is Pure Gold Retrieved 20 March 2009
  6. ^ Pasotti, Eleanora (2010). "Sorting Through The Trash: The Waste Management Crisis In Southern Italy". South European Society & Politics. 2 (15): 289-307.
  7. ^ Peter Popham (22 May 2008), written at Naples, "Berlusconi takes Cabinet to Naples to tackle rubbish", The Independent, England, retrieved 20 March 2009
  8. ^ Charles Hawley and Josh Ward (3 July 2008), written at Naples, "Psychologists to Counsel Italians on Garbage Crisis", Der Spiegel, Germany, retrieved 20 March 2009
  9. ^ The end of the emergency is covered in the following newspaper articles:
  10. ^ Paolo Tullio (6 September 2008), written at Naples, "Of buffaloes, mozzarella and brothers", The Independent, Ireland, retrieved 20 March 2009
  11. ^ EJOLT. "Urban waste incinerator of Acerra, Italy - EJAtlas". Environmental Justice Atlas.
  12. ^ Totaro, Paola (4 September 2009). "It's a dog's life in a land of sublime beauty". WA Today. Australia: Fairfax Digital. Retrieved 29 September 2009.
  13. ^ Naples Blasts Berlusconi as Garbage Piles Up, Newsweek. Fetched from URL on 27 October 2010.
  14. ^ Babbo Natale porterà i rifiuti in Olanda. E de Magistris a Clini: vieni qua e vedi Il Corriere del Mezzogiorno, 23 November 2011. Fetched from URL on 12 December 2011
  15. ^ First shipment of Naples rubbish arrives in Rotterdam,, 23 January 2012. Fetched from URL on 17 June 2016.
  16. ^ Rifiuti, arrivata a Napoli la nave olandese. Martedì riparte carica, Online News, 7 January 2012, Fetched from URL on 8 January 2012.

External links[edit]

Press reports