On the recently wrapped The Sopranos, “waste management” was Tony’s pat answer (along with the signature sheepish grin) when asked about his line of work. But in real-life Naples—where for weeks more than 2,700 tonnes of trash have been piling up on the city’s streets, in its bay, and up the slopes of Vesuvius—the mob’s rumoured involvement in garbage disposal is no joke.
The densely populated Campania coast has long suffered a shortage of space for dumping refuse, a fact thrived on by local crime gangs that reportedly control most of
the region’s waste-removal market. The situation reached a crisis point last month after three garbage dumps were shuttered for safety violations, with the only remaining one slated for closure on May 26. Daily refuse collection was stopped, and the stench of dirty diapers and rotting food filled the city.
Some schools were closed in protest, and some Neapolitans began burning trash. The environment minister called for anyone incinerating garbage to be arrested, and accused criminal syndicates of exploiting the chaos and encouraging civil disobedience. After almost a week, one of the dump sites was reopened temporarily, and politicians were promising to solve the crisis within 10 days.
But more than two weeks later, Naples is still full of garbage. “It’s not true that the Mafia is doing this,” says Armando Di Francesco, who works for the local school board. “They have interests, of course, but it’s not true.” Authorities agreed last May to build four new sites, but between local residents who don’t want incinerators, limits on land use due to environmental protection, and the muscle of the mob—which is against the new sites—they’ve proven unable to deliver. “And now, the poor citizens have to live with the consequences,” says Di Francesco. M
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