Italy is being hauled into Court by the European Commission for sending waste to the Malagrotta landfill in Rome and other landfill sites without sufficient treatment.
According to the commission, the landfill sites located in the Lazio region are being filled with waste that has not undergone the treatment required by EU legislation due to a narrow interpretation by the Italian authorities of what constitutes sufficient treatment..
On the recommendation of Environment Commissioner Janez Potonik, the Commission is taking Italy to the EU Court of Justice, and said that Landfills operating in breach of EU waste legislation constitute a serious threat to human health and the environment.
The Landfill Directive stipulates that any waste to be landfilled must first be treated.
According to the Commission that means that it has to undergo some "physical, thermal, chemical or biological processes, including sorting, that change the characteristics of the waste in order to reduce its volume or hazardous nature, facilitate its handling or enhance recovery."
An EU investigation claimed that some of the municipal waste produced in Lazio is not treated in mechanical biological treatment (MBT) plants prior to landfilling, because Lazio does not have sufficient capacity in this area.
As a consequence, part of the municipal waste landfilled in the Malagrotta landfill, and other Lazio sites, does not undergo the appropriate treatment, which the Commission said should include proper sorting into waste streams and the stabilisation of the organic fraction.
The latest information provided by the Italian authorities indicated that some 735,000 tonnes of waste now escape treatment in the Rome province every year, with a further 120,000 tonnes also going untreated in the nearby Latina province.
Italy considers that the waste landfilled in the Rome and Latina provinces should be considered as 'treated' as it is crushed before being landfilled.
The Commission do not agree that simply crushing or shredding unsorted waste prior to landfilling is sufficient to prevent or reduce as far as possible negative effects on the environment and any resulting risk to human health (as required by both the Landfill and Waste Framework Directives), and said that the treatment must also include proper sorting of the different waste streams.
In the light of the above, the Commission sent a letter of formal notice on 17 June 2011 and a reasoned opinion on 1 June 2012.
After studying the replies sent by the Italian authorities, the Commission said that it has concluded that the treatment deficiencies in Lazio are likely to continue until 2015.
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