Rome unveils plan to build massive waste-to-energy plant

Italian capital aims to tackle trash crisis with major new plan.

Rome mayor Roberto Gualtieri has unveiled a plan to build a waste-to-energy plant capable of handling 600,000 tonnes of refuse a year as part of efforts to tackle the rubbish crisis in the Italian capital.

The move marks a change in strategy for Gualtieri who in the lead-up to his election last October said he was opposed to building new waste-to-energy plants, reports Italian newspaper Il Sole 24 Ore.

The construction of the plant would take several years but Gualtieri hopes it could be feasible within the lifetime of his city council and if possible before the Jubilee 2025 of which he is extraordinary commissioner.

Gualtieri, of the centre-left Partito Democratico (PD), said the new "publicly controlled" plant would allow the city to shut down the Rocca Cencia waste treatment facility and would "reduce the current need for landfills by 90 per cent".

The mayor said that as it stands Rome's need for waste disposal amounts to "1,200 tons per day" and that the city currently sends "450,000 tons of waste to landfill per year, well above the national average."

When fully operational, the new 600,000-ton per year plant would have almost double the capacity of the only waste-to-energy incinerator active in the Lazio region, S. Vittore, which disposes of about 300,000 tons a year, even if it has a capacity of 400,000 tons, reports Il Sole 24 Ore.

The mayor said that once up and running the new system would allow for the reduction of bin charges, or Tari, by "at least 20 per cent" as well as "significantly enhancing" the rubbish collection and cleaning of the capital.

Gualtieri's surprise announcement was welcomed by Carlo Calenda, the leader of the liberal centrist Azione party and former Rome mayoral candidate, who described it as "an excellent decision".

However the mayor is expected to face an uphill battle in convincing the Lazio region president and fellow PD member Nicola Zingaretti who has previously stated his opposition to this type of waste processing plant, according to Il Sole 24 Ore.

There are also considerable objections from environmental group Legambiente whose president Stefano Ciafani slammed the plan as a "totally wrong choice, contrary to environmental policies and the principles of eco-sustainable development".

Ciafani also rejected claims that the plant would have "a substantially zero environmental impact" as "clearly false" and called on the city to step away from the plan.

Gualtieri did not reveal any projected costs of the project however the recent construction of a 400,000 ton per year waste-to-energy plant in Copenhagen reportedly cost nearly half a billion euro.

The other big question is "Where?" The proposed site of the plant is south of the capital in Santa Palomba near the town of Pomezia, whose mayor is already on a war footing, according to Il Sole 24 Ore.

The site was already identified by Gualtieri's predecessor, Virginia Raggi of the populist Movimento 5 Stelle (M5S), as suitable for a new waste treatment plant.

Photo credit: Ackab Photography / Shutterstock.com.

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Wanted in Rome is a monthly magazine in English for expatriates in Rome established in 1985. The magazine covers Rome news stories that may be of interest to English and Italian speaking residents, and tourists as well. The publication also offers classifieds, photos, information on events, museums, churches, galleries, exhibits, fashion, food, and local travel.
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