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Malagrotta: Rome at the Edge of a Waste Apocalypse

March 16, 2011

Malagrotta Dump (image courtesy of

The city of Rome has been dealing with its waste for thousands of years in a variety of forms. Sometimes throwing it in the river (one of the legendary versions of the origins of Tiber island). Sometimes piling it in landfills such as Monte Testaccio, a 30 meter-high pile of pottery shards. And sometimes finding creative (but equally destructive) new uses for old materials as practiced by the Cosmati artists who transformed marble slabs into mosaic tiles in the late middle ages. For the past decade, however, waste management in Rome has meant one place and one man: Malagrotta, the property of Manlio Cerroni. Every day five thousand tons of trash show up at what is Europe’s largest landfill, some converted to energy through incineration or gasification, but the rest piled up as landfill. And since 2008 this landfill has been, well, full. The proposed solution, a new dump site north of Rome at Allumiere, was shot down this week, leaving the question open. The problem isn’t finding another landfill site but reducing, and eventually eliminating, the waste produced. The Lazio region as a whole produces over 3 million tons of waste a year, with less than 20% recycled. Compare this to the Germany’s 70% rate. The process is marred at every step: inadequate measures for separating waste in the home, at the curb, ineffective control at the processing plant leading to potentially usable recycled materials being sent to landfill anyway. The lessons of Naples, where trash piled uncollected on the streets tarnished decades of hard-earned improvements in the city’s public image, seem to go unheeded in the Italian capital.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. October 21, 2011 10:38

    Excellent summation – have added this commentary w/photo to my blog entry addressing the same topic…



  1. Ruining the ruins | desperate but not serious: it's Italy, believe it or not

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