“In 10 to 15 days from now, Rome will be back to normal,” said Environment Minister Sergio Costa on Tuesday, the day he held a summit with Mayor of Rome Virginia Raggi and the governor of the larger Lazio region, Nicola Zingaretti, on the refuse that has been overflowing from Rome's bins for several weeks and is threatening to create a health hazard.
Extra collections will be organized and the authorities will liaise with the city's waste disposal company every two days to identify build-ups and plan which treatment plants can handle the strain, Costa said.
Negotiations are underway for Rome to send some of its trash to other EU countries for disposal, he said, while in the longer term the government plans to build new waste treatment plants and to encourage Romans to separate their garbage so that more can be recycled or composted.
“We need everyone's cooperation,” said Raggi, who said the city would step up door-to-door collections of separated waste in the next few weeks.
Bins in Rome this month. Photo: Tiziana Fabi/AFP
Rome's doctors' association wrote an open letter this month warning that overflowing bins risked becoming a health hazard, as trash putrefies in the summer heat and draws swarms of flies, cockroaches, rats and seagulls.
And last month Lazio's regional government issued a public health warning over Rome's rubbish, cautioning that unemptied bins were a particular risk around hospitals, nurseries and food markets.
Rome's garbage problems are chronic, spanning decades of dodgy contractors and mismanagement. Things worsened further in 2013, when the city's sprawling Malagrotta dump was found to fall short of European standards and ordered closed.
The council has struggled ever since to find an alternative, and the city's refuse system regularly reaches crisis point at times of holiday and high use.
An overflowing bin by the Pantheon in 2015. Photo: Andreas Solaro/AFP
Raggi, a member of the Five Star Movement that now leads Italy's coalition government, has been accused of making the problem worse through incompetence. She and Zingaretti, who is head of the centre-left opposition Democratic Party, have clashed over this latest crisis, with the governor demanding this week that bins be emptied within seven days and the mayor calling his ultimatum “ridiculous”.
Rome's municipal waste company, Ama, says intruders stormed its head office and threatened staff earlier this month amid the ongoing crisis, while several bins have been set on fire in apparent protest.
Ama has appealed to Romans' “sense of civic duty” to try and reduce the amount of waste they produce and recycle as much as possible.