Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Recycling Calabria

Scalea Centro Storico
The natural beauty and the beauty of the people of Calabria attracted us to embark on a new life adventure here. Yes, our eyes were full of the stars that only visitors to a new and seductive place can create for themselves. We also knew we would find the serpents lurking in this (and every) paradise. This is the story of the rubbish serpent. 


The Problem
Scalea This Year
Unfortunately not everything you see these days is beautiful. The past two years in Calabria have seen a rifiuti (rubbish) crisis in towns large and small. Cosenza, Catanzaro, Crotone, Reggio Calabria and also our neighbor, Scalea (featured below), have had ugly piles in their streets. We could rarely read a daily newspaper that did not contain at least one article about the rifiuti crisis. The main problem is that Calabria ran out of landfills. They filled up and closed, so  new places to haul the rubbish were frantically sought. For a while much was trucked to Tuscany and Abruzzo (very expensive hauling). Then for a short time a landfill was available near Catanzaro, but that soon was filled and backups created more piles. Recent mafia arrests in the Scalea community government added to a general leadership vacuum.

Scalea South Side
A cultural and language barrier prevents us from a full understanding but it seems to us that the Provincial governments of Crotone, Cosenza, Catanzaro, Reggio Calabria and Vibo Valentia failed badly to plan for replacement landfills. Another aspect of the whole situation is the European Union requirement for member countries to reduce the amount of municipal waste placed in landfills by implementing recycling programs. We may not be totally correct in all our interpretations of Italian newspapers and even what we hear from officials. If our Italian readers have corrections, please send them.

You can read in the two reports attached here and here how the wealthy northern regions are doing fairly well while the poor southern regions lag behind. Sicily is the worst followed by Calabria.

In the much larger and wealthier city of Trieste, we looked at these rubbish disposal stations. Material dropped into these things actually goes into an underground room where it is out-of-sight and cleared away in some sort of tunnel system!

To The Rescue
We are proud to now have one of the first recycling plants in the industrial park of Santa Domenica Talao. To our knowledge, there is only one other like this one in Cosenza, in Calabria. BUT, the incentive is there for more to be built – maybe by the same company if they are profitable. 


This company, Multiservizi Igiene Ambientale  (M.I.A.) has only been operating its new facility for several weeks. They plan to serve most of the towns in the coastal region. They already have 15-20 towns under contract to bring waste to the site. The only materials they do not accept are hazardous waste and wet organics. This means the towns must still have a landfill option for organic materials.


The photo above features a large grinder that will take mattresses, television sets, refrigerators, wood and plastic, and grinds it into a mix that can be burnt for electricity generation and other applications.

Plastics, Glass and Aluminum
The facility is not like one in the US or maybe the UK. This is a Phase 1 separation site where they separate materials, compress it into bales and ship those bales north to companies that further process it into other materials, recycled cardboard/paper, burn it, ecc. The citizens in the towns are required to dispose of certain materials on designated days so every town is sending the same type of rubbish to the plant each day.


In-coming rubbish is weighed on a truck scales .

We like the fact that this plant requires manual separation work because this creates jobs. There are currently 12 people working here. It doesn’t sound like much, but in Calabria, fulltime, year-round jobs are precious. Welcome M.I.A.!


The company has a very nice modern classroom in the facility for employee training, and it is open to the local schools for environmental education classes. We wish our Italian language classroom had such comfortable desks and chairs – maybe Guido would learn more!!

All of these changes affect the residents. Santa Domenica adjusted fairly well being a small village. Scalea is coming along, but there is still resistance to change and folks continue to throw mixed rubbish where it should not be. In August when 20,000 holiday homeowners arrive, there will be quite an interesting learning curve! This time next year, we believe it will be much better for all. We know the rubbish contractor in Scalea is having customer service problems when they issue the special bags to residents – badly under-staffed. Today when Doug drove by their office across from the Bata/Oviesse stores, the blinds were down and the door locked. 

There still is an urgent need for provinicial governments to purchase and develop new landfills and we don’t know if anyone is working on that issue.

Calabria is still one of the most beautiful places in Italy. We are hopeful that the region will soon adapt to new waste management methods. Piano, piano

Guido e Diana

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