Environmental Justice in Italy
The Fall of Rome: From 7 hills to 7 landfills?
By Francesca Rosignoli, 2019-02-03

December 2018, a toxic cloud fell to the northeast area of the city of Rome. A waste shed of over 2.000 m2 caught fire at the mechanical biological treatment plant (TMB Salario) situated in the periphery of a dense residential area of the city ( Via Salaria 981).

50 Meters from houses and 150 meters from a nursery, the waste plant TMB Salario has been causing a nuisance through noise and odors since 2011.

About 24 hours after the fire, 9,1 pg/m3 of dioxin and 35.1 ng/m3 of benzopyrene were released into the air (ARPA, 2018).

Alarming levels considering that before the fire, dioxin levels were 0,7 pg/m3, while benzopyrene 2,86 ng/m3. According to Daniele Fortini, one of Italy's leading experts in the waste sector, dioxin levels released into the air because of the fire are equivalent to the amount of dioxin released by 100 incinerators in a year.

While the wind spread such emissions in the northeast part of the city, including the city center, and one of the most wealthy districts of Rome, Parioli, the mayor (Virginia Raggi) and her staff have still not given any official statement to citizens on dioxin emissions and benzopyrenes. Almost one month after the accident, no official information on how the waste plant is monitored, and when it will be reclaimed, and all abandoned waste will be dealt with safely, has been given. Current investigations have shown that more than 3,000 tons of waste had accumulated in TMB Salario plant, although its capacity should be at most 600 tons. The reason is linked to the incapacity of local government to cope with waste management after the shutdown, in October 2013, of the Malagrotta dump, the biggest landfill in Europe. Citizens had several times protested because of the trash smell coming from TMB Salario plant, which has become a de facto landfill over the years. In July 2018, the new government of Rome's municipal district III founded the Permanent TMB Salario Observatory gathering citizens, activists, and neighborhood organizations to force the Rome city authorities to shut down TMB Salario plant.

These days, while sidewalks are so invaded by rubbish that Headteachers Association threats of keeping schools closed for preventing health risks for students, apparently a map indicating 7 landfill sites considered "suitable for waste disposal plants" is presented by the technical experts of the Metropolitan City of Rome.

No answer to the Waste Fall of Rome has currently provided because of the buck being passed from the Region to the Mayor. Without citizens being provided with any fresh information on the drawing up of the future waste management plan, the answer is... blowing in the wind.

ARPA Lazio. (2018). Monitoraggio qualità dell'aria incendio TMB 11 dicembre 2018. Scheda di sintesi. Retrieved from http://www.arpalazio.gov.it/servizi/eventi/

ilMessaggero.it. (2019). Rifiuti, Roma torna alle discariche: ecco le sette aree. Retrieved from https://www.ilmessaggero.it/pay/edicola/rifiuti_roma_discariche-4217931.html/

Image: © Rosignoli