Friday, October 21

Garbage in Italy: Not in My Backyard

The posters and talk around town, was the exciting news that Rome would be closing down its garbage dump.  Who knew that it is also the largest garbage dump in all of Europe?  But, any walk through any neighborhood outside the pristine city center, and you find garbage galore strewn near the dumpsters by old ladies and young kids alike.  It's often just too much of an effort for residents to use the handy pedal to open the dumpsters. I realize it's a brain teaser for most to figure out that the plastic recycling (blue) does not go into the paper bin (white) and nor should your plastic recycling contain your chicken bones from last night's dinner, your pizza boxes, nor even your milk containers - touch them as you are wont to do when pouring - you'll discover not only are they not made of plastic but with the special Tetrapak™ coating, they are not recyclable - even as paper.
So, when Rome's dump is closing (and the protests continue in Naples to bar authorities from opening new dumps), one starts to wonder...where are we going to put the 3 million yearly tons of garbage?  A reader pleaded for me to write about their plight...
Europe's largest land fill
Photo courtesy of 
by way of blogger SustainableRome
Admittedly, I am not usually on the side of the protesters.  People want to be able to toss their litter cavalierly out car windows and leave it for 'someone else' to depose of later - preferably as far away as possible, like in Nigeria [It is such a part of life here - and everywhere worldwide - I have dedicated an entire chapter to environmental issues in my forthcoming book].  I will never forget the days gazing at the view out my Amex tower office window and beholding the sight of The Garbage Barge, parading up and down the Hudson river, looking for a place to dump its load.  In any case, Italy is a slim country.  Inevitably, you're gonna end up tossing the crap in someone's backyard.
The Lazio region solution is to thumb their noses at EU rules while telling locals to hold their noses after they open a new toxic dump in a fairly residential area.  Plans are to open it near Riano, a lovely place with rolling hills and speckled with beautiful homes, and, atop of Tiber river tributaries.  Seeing that most of these homes get their fresh water from that very source, cancer rates should be rising to levels seen only by Erin Brockovich.
But is there another solution when land fills are filled to the brim?  I am no expert on this stuff, but I can't understand why the focus is on 'fill 'er up' rather than on breaking her down through the rite of recycling.  Milan placed garbage cans inside each and every building, and residents were fined for flippantly tossing their paper in the plastic bin (we were all forced to share the pain--to the point that some of us (well, most likely just me) fashioned themselves as courtyard Carabinieri -- to the point that I was ready to put CCTV cameras outside my balcony window in order to catch the waste-mixing culprits).  Milan's recycling is over 50%.  In Rome, where dumpsters overflow and residents resist dividing their waste, it's clear to see that reaching 25% is a stretch.
Garbage can also be turned into energy.  Again, why these 'termovalorizzatori' aren't utilized is beyond me.  According to the investigative reporting of Striscia la notizia, in Naples and Bari energy-producing incinerators get built (with EU money no less), and then abandoned as monuments in a sort of museum of what technology could do if someone simply turned on the 'ON' switch.
I'd be quite interested in having you dish your own dirt on the topic--


Flavor of Italy said...

What a wonderful summary of the garbage situation in Rome!
Rome: WAKE UP!!! It's time to declare war on garbage and on the politicians (Polverini and Alemanno) who are perpetuating one of Rome's dirtiest problems (pardon the pun): the mega-discarica. Join the November 5th Rome city center protest against the proposed new garbage dump in Riano. For details check out the website (give it a a few days to be up and running) and follow SOS Discarica Riano on Facebook.
And folks, Burnt By the Tuscan Sun is a wonderful blog. Add it to your favorites and "like" their Facebook page. It's an excellent way to keep up on Italian issues....and enjoy a little tongue in cheek humor!

Irreverent Italy said...

The Mayor of Riano has already petitioned the EU for irregular and/or illegal placing of a landfill in her community. You go grrrllll!