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Last Updated: Thursday, 29 July, 2004, 10:12 GMT 11:12 UK
Riches in rubbish for Naples Mafia
By Sarah Parfitt
BBC Radio 4's Crossing Continents

Naples schools had to close recently when the problem intensified
In the Italian city of Naples, a refuse crisis has been seized upon by the local Mafia, who have identified a lucrative business opportunity.

Naples is drowning in its own waste.

The situation reached a crisis point recently when piles of rotting rubbish filled the streets and caused an environmental and public health emergency.

Angry Neapolitans even took the law into their own hands by setting fire to mounds of refuse on street corners.

"The city produces thousands of tonnes of rubbish each week and the landfill sites are full," said Marco Colombo, an Italian journalist who has been investigating the problem.

"There are no incinerators to deal with the problem because no one wants them in their own backyard."

"The concept of recycling is a foreign one to most Neapolitans."


Rubbish is a headache for the local authorities, but it is proving a goldmine for the local Mafia or "Camorra" who have had a stranglehold on the waste disposal industry for years.

Festering pile of rubbish
The piles of festering rubbish have been proving a health hazard
According to a parliamentary commission, the business generates around 4 bn a year, the size of some government budgets.

"Around 50% of Italy's household and industrial waste industry is controlled by the eco-Mafia," said Magistrate Donato Ceglie, who is spear-heading the battle against waste trafficking.

The Camorra dispose of household and industrial waste at very competitive rates, but have allegedly dumped it in rivers, fields and caves all over the Campania region.

More seriously, it has even been claimed that industrial waste has been disguised by mixing it with tarmac and asphalt, and made into bricks used to build houses.


Farmer Annibale Salerno has an olive and wine farm in the village of Montecorvino Pugliano, an hour south of Naples.

Farmer Anibale Salerno
Anibale Salerno's land is between a quarry and a public dumping site
He claims he is one of the eco-Mafia's victims, because his land and water have been contaminated by toxic waste.

"This land is all I have got. It is the land of my father and my grandfather," said Mr Salerno.

"I am sandwiched between a massive quarry and a public dumping site so my land is not worth anything any more.

"I cannot sell my produce and my sons have all gone up north because there is no work for them. It is very sad."

Environmental police force

The authorities have started to crack down on the eco-mafia.

Until three years ago, Italy's waste traffickers were untouchable. Fly-tipping - even of toxic waste - was simply treated as a misdemeanour.

Now it is a criminal offence which carries a maximum six year sentence.

There is also an environmental police force, a branch of the Carabinieri which has recently carried out four major operations.

But despite these advances, the slow judicial system means the courts have yet to secure any major convictions.

BBC Radio 4's Crossing Continents, Crossing Europe was broadcast on Thursday, 29 July, 2004 at 1100 BST.

The programme was repeated on Monday, 2 August 2004, at 2030 BST.

Rubbish revolt ignites Naples
10 May 03 |  Europe
A world drowning in litter
04 Mar 02 |  Europe
Country profile: Italy
07 Jul 04 |  Country profiles


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