“We're working on a ban on using disposable plastics in Rome,” Mayor Virginia Raggi, of the Five Star Movement, stated today.
But surprisingly she didn't cite environmental issues as the reason for the ban, even though green policies featured heavily in her party's election promises. Instead, she said she wants to starve the local “ecomafia” of its “food”: trash and recycling.
“We will rush the ban through because we must start subtracting rubbish from this criminal system,” she told local media. “I'm certain that the citizens will understand and will be with us.”
The “criminal system” she was referring to is the organised crime network believed to be targeting the city's waste processing facilities.
Rome is notorious for rubbish piling up, even near iconic monuments. Photo: FIlippo Monteforte/AFP
Residents have long blamed local officials for Rome's problems with rubbish, rats and general degradation.
But officials point the finger at organised criminals, who they say are strangling the city's rubbish collection and recycling systems and may be behind suspected arson attacks on recycling plants.
In December, fire destroyed a large waste processing plant on the outskirts of Rome, leaving the city struggling further to process rubbish and recycling at a time when residents were already complaining about trash piling up in the streets.
There was a separate serious fire at another waste processing plant on Sunday night, which police are investigating as a suspected arson attack.
Italian environment agency Legambiente coined the term 'ecomafia' to describe the sectors of organised crime that “deal in the illicit traffic and disposal of waste, and illegal building and excavation activities.”
Stefano Ciafani, president of Legambiente, told local radio: “the illegal recycling of waste and cement are their main operations creating a totally illegal turnover exceeded 14 billion euros in 2018.”
“It's an empire founded on illegality that undermines the environment, people's health and a healthy economy, and that makes a lot of money for ecomafia clans that are operating throughout Italy, not only in the classic four regions that we all know.”
Stefano Vignarola, an M5S member and president of the waste commission that deals with ecomafia, told local media the single-use plastic ban was “fundamental and we can no longer delay implementing concrete action for the reduction of waste throughout the country.”
“To demonstrate the urgency of these measures are the continuous fires, the plants full of waste with no outlet on the recycling market, and above all the innumerable problems that usually concern disposal processes.”