Rome's rubbish crisis has become a political battle - but locals just want their city cleaned up

Catherine Edwards
Catherine Edwards - [email protected]
Rome's rubbish crisis has become a political battle - but locals just want their city cleaned up
Five Star Movement mayor Virginia Raggi pictured earlier this month. Photo: Andreas Solaro/AFP

Rome's mayor has vowed to clean up the capital by the end of the week after the city's trash crisis became a political battlefield.


Mayor Virginia Raggi said on Tuesday afternoon that the city would "return to normal" by the end of the week, thanks to "an extraordinary task force" and 24-hour opening of waste collection agency AMA's plants. 

Her comments came after Lazio's regional government called on Rome to introduce "urgent, credible and effective measures" to deal with the "increasingly intolerable" crisis.

Waste disposal problems are a long-standing bugbear for residents of the Eternal City, with rubbish and litter piling up in the streets, often just metres from the capital's ancient monuments.

But as well as being unsightly - and, as temperatures increase, smelly - the overflowing bins have led to environmental and health concerns.

The rubbish is thought to be behind the increasing number of wild animals in the city, from rats who have been filmed feasting near rubbish containers, to a large wild boar presence which in March led to a deadly road collision, to the ever-growing bird population

A pleasant walk at Casal Bruciato.

So why isn't the situation improving?

Raggi was elected by a landslide last summer after making a pledge to solve the crisis one of her key campaign promises.

Once in office, she said the city's streets would be cleared up "within a month", a deadline which came and went, and in April she unveiled a 12-point plan aimed at solving the rubbish crisis once and for all, through a series of measures including increased recycling to rewarding those who produce less waste.

The most striking thing about that plan was that it didn't actually mention rubbish, instead referring only to "post-usage materials".

But beyond creative rhetoric, almost a year on from her election, little has changed in terms of Rome's waste crisis. 

This is something the Democratic Party (PD), for whom losing control of the city to the Five Star Movement was a "painful blow", has been quick to pounce on.

The party's recently re-elected leader, Matteo Renzi, said this week the city had been "invaded" by garbage and that the Five Star council was "incapable" of solving the problem. He announced that PD members would join volunteers in a mass clear-up of the city on Sunday. 

Raggi however has laid the blame for the rubbish woes lies at the PD's door, criticizing both the previous Rome administration and the PD-controlled Lazio government.

But the locals don't care about political point-scoring. They just want their city cleaned up.

After the city councillor for environmental sustainability said there was "absolutely no 'rubbish emergency' - a statement Raggi echoed - residents flooded social media with photos proving the opposite.

Many of the images of overflowing rubbish containers around the city were collected by the website 'Roma fa schifo (Rome is disgusting)' which charts the levels of degradation in the capital.

The site was accused by some of the council's official social media accounts of sharing fake or outdated photos, to which the bloggers responded: "Roma fa schifo has very harshly attacked for years all councils and all previous administrations - of all stripes."

They said that the worst previous administrations had done was block them on Twitter, but "today, we are under a constant barrage of intimidation, judicial attacks, threats of lawsuits, and above all, lies".

READ ALSO: Keep up with the latest goings-on in the Italian capital at our Rome section

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