Rubbish crisis in Rome

Refuse trucks grounded over closed treatment plants

Rubbish has been piling up on Rome's streets in recent days due to the temporary closure of two of the city's four treatment plants.

The Via Salaria facility north of Rome is closed for maintenance while the Rocca Cencia plant east of the capital is closed due to the break-down of its waste-crushing machinery. This has led to the accumulation of refuse on pavements around bins on many streets around Rome.

The city's refuse collection agency AMA says it will create temporary sorting centres to deal with the problem which has also been acknowledged by Rome's environment councillor Estella Marino. During a tour of the capital with AMA chief Daniele Fortini, Marino found an "uneven picture" of Rome where some "neighbourhoods are clean, some dirty."

Rome's rubbish problems made headlines on 6 July when the well-known Italian journalist and television personality Bruno Vespa tweeted that he had just returned from St Petersburg, a city of five million inhabitants, where he had not seen a "single piece of rubbish" on the streets. He said was "ashamed to live in Rome", describing the management of the capital's rubbish as "a national problem" and pointing the finger of blame at the mayor Ignazio Marino.

The mayor responded by blaming the "private monopoly" in Rome, citing "a single person who for 50 years managed a single dump, as big as 350 football fields, where since the 1970s until I was elected [June 2013] there were mattresses, water bottles and restaurant waste dumped. Whatever you wanted."

Marino was referring to the sprawling Malagrotta site west of Rome and its owner Manlio Cerroni, who described his rubbish tip as "the luck and the salvation of Rome" before it finally closed at the end of 2013, after many reprieves.

Marino also invited Vespa to focus his attention on the role played by Malagrotta. Vespa counter-responded by saying that since the closure of the mega dump the refuse situation has got much worse. He also said that his television show Porta a Porta had conducted an investigation into Rome's rubbish collection twice, in April 2013 and January of this year, reminding Marino that he declined Vespa's invitation to join the panel on both occasions.

Although many attempts have been made no suitable site has yet been found to replace Malagrotta thanks to demonstrations, protests and legal appeals by residents living close to any of the proposed locations.

Marino recently revealed that an average of 18 per cent of AMA employees call in sick every day.