Rome’s Garbage


Communal Garbage and Recycling Bins, San Pietro

Emptying Communal Garbage Bins

It is tempting to only focus on the beauty of Rome but  ever since I saw Vic Munoz’s documentary Waste Land on the garbage dump in Rio, I’ve become more aware of the problems cities face with garbage collection. Here in Rome, garbage collection is complicated. There is no door to door collection. Instead, there are communal bins on every street. Black for garbage, blue for glass and plastic recycling and white for paper.

Garbage Pick-up Trastevere

Everyday, we take our plastic bag of garbage and drop it in the bin and a little truck comes by a few times a week and empties the bins. The system is quite well organized. Small bins are emptied manually, common bins on narrow streets such as ours are collected by a small truck and taken to a large truck which then goes to the city garbage dump at Malagrotta. Although one sees garbage bins on residential streets, one does not see them in the historic centre (musn’t put off the tourists!). So how do the residents there dispose of their garbage? I’ve heard that on given days, trucks come to the local piazza and residents have to take their garbage to the pick-up point. All I can say is that I’m glad we have a bin on our street as I can’t imagine having to walk to a pick-up point at a given time to get rid of waste although this might force one to be more vigilant about reducing one’s garbage.How the elderly and sick manage is a mystery. Perhaps they have to rely on the neighbours.

Emptying the Small Bins

Interestingly, both men and women collect the garbage and drive the trucks. Despite the ‘dirty’ nature of the work, the women I’ve seen take care of their appearance. Make-up, jewellery, and fashionable sunglasses are de rigeur. The men look pretty good to me as well!

There are around 1.46 million tons of garbage generated per year, (4,000 tons per day)  and only about 20% of garbage is recycled.  The city is trying to increase this number so as to decrease the amount going into landfill but I’m not sure if there is a good infrastructure for recycling. It may just be an attempt to show that the city is trying to do something about reducing its garbage. The problem is that Malagrotta, reputed to be one of the largest garbage dump in the EU, is now full and is alleged to be an environmental risk. It was destined to close in January 2012 but no long term alternative site has been agreed upon. A temporary one at Riona close to Tivoli was proposed but has not been welcomed as it is a residential area and also there are landscaping and archaeological constraints. I find it amusing that in the second century AD, the emperor Adriano (Hadrian) decided to build his villa in Tivoli in order to escape the noise and smell of the capital. He must be turning in his grave, now that the smell of the capital’s garbage is slated to follow him there 18 centuries later!

Meanwhile, as far as I know, garbage is still being taken to Malagrotta despite pressure from the EU to close it and the threat of serious fines if its not. I just hope that those bins on our street continue to be emptied but its an ugly situation and most people don’t even know that there’s a potential garbage problem in Rome.

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One Response to Rome’s Garbage

  1. Françoise says:

    Very interesting. Glad you notice the well groomed garbage Romans.

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