Photo by Sebastiano Sacco, via Dario Salvelli's blog, Jan. 9 2008.
We published a post on the 'trash crisis' in Naples on Saturday. The problem is far from over and the Neapolitans continue to clash with police forces. Images of these riots have been broadcast across the world, but there’s a lack of information on the context and the twists in this particularly complicated, internecine crisis. Why is Naples unable to manage its garbage disposal like other European cities? Our observer, Alessia Storia, worked for a public sector waste management company. She details the responsibilities of the local authorities and the might of the Camorra, the dreaded Sicilian mafia, in this crisis.
It's been a big problem for the past 10 years. The authorities have failed to manage the problem. The "special garbage disposal task force" ("Commissariato per Emergenza Rifiuti") released a strategic plan back in 1997. Thirty-five percent of the city's refuse was to be sent for selective sorting and 65% were to be reprocessed for the production of RDF (refuse-derived fuel - a process of waste recycling that leads to the production of gasoline).
To achieve this, the plan envisaged the construction of seven RDF reprocessing plants. Ten years later, only 10% of waste has been sorted, instead of 35%. The seven reprocessing plants have only just been built. But, instead of producing RDF, they produce "ecoballs" that cannot even be burned because they do not meet government health and enviromnetal standards. To manage the crisis, the authorities are considering emergency measures: to transfer waste to other areas in Italy, or even to Germany; or to reopen old discharges, like the one in Pianura, a suburb of Naples, that was shut 13 years ago. The announcement of these measures added fuel to the fires of public discontent over the city's waste management.
The Sicilian mafia is not the origin of the problem, but it certainly benefits from the situation. In the words of Franco Roberti, chief prosecutor in charge of the anti-mafia operations, "for the Camorra, waste is gold." The Sicilian mafia made a fortune through their waste processing companies, particularly in toxic waste management. The companies it manages are illegal and do not comply with environmental standards.
The Camorra, more than any other Italian mafia group, is particularly good at transforming its operation into service companies. It offers the same waste management service as other companies, but undercuts their competitors by offering the services at 80% cheaper rates. In 14 years, the Camorra's market share bloomed and the mafia clan does not want to lose this juicy business. Investigations into the involvement of local politicians in this business are currently underway. The reopening of the Pianura facility has not only raised public health concerns among the local population, but has also sparked fears that it will introduce the Camorra in an underprivileged district."
Video by Giulio Finotti Jan. 9 2008