The Heap

Trash Italian Style

Naples, Italy, used to enjoy its reputation as the originator of pizza and a popular vacation spot. But in recent years, it’s become better known as a vast, unrestricted dumping ground. The region’s disposal dysfunction goes back decades, fueled by government ineptitude and heavy interference from organized crime. By 2007, things had grown so bad that trash simply piled up in the streets for months.

After Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi returned to office in 2008, he promised to solve the problem by quickly establishing new dumps and a waste treatment center. Unfortunately, the treatment center was immediately hamstrung by its inability to accept unsorted waste (a task apparently beyond the region’s waste collectors). The dumps have their own problems. One, established near the town of Terzigno, just south of Naples, has been blamed for widespread asthma, allergies and outright misery in nearby residents. Demonstrations and riots have sought to block trucks from bringing in any more garbage, with several trucks burned to a crisp in a recent outbreak of violence. A second proposed dump, to be carved out of a Unesco-protected park on the slope of Mount Vesuvius (an active volcano), is fueling further outrage. European Union officials have issued condemnations of their own, fearing the mounting trash and vermin will foster an outbreak of disease.

All of which must make the beleaguered Berlusconi nostalgic for the time when his biggest problem was the public airing of his considerable sexual indiscretions.

Sources: New York Times,