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Wars have usually been associated with money or power. Who ever thought of gun-battles for empty plastic bottles, broken glasses, polythene bags, rotten vegetables or urban filth?

Ancient Italian cities like Naples, Sicily, Calabria and Pugalia currently are witnessing organized crime syndicates for grabbing garbage. Each of the powerful mafia groups has already demarcated areas of operations to guard their landfills.

Interestingly, these gun-totting mafia-members are waste recyclers! Mafia bosses are controlling the million-dollar garbage business and even willing to fight against any competitor that may venture to snatch his loot.

Old-established-powerful mafia cartels like Cosa Nostra, Sacra Corona Unita, ‘Ndrangheta, Mala del Brenta and Camorra are managing their own urban waste heaps in different parts of Italy drawing international attention.

Italy currently stands at crossroads for the disposal of municipal, toxic and hazardous waste. According to a BBC report, almost all contracts for collection of MSW industrial waste and their disposal cum recycling now have fallen in the hands of mafia groups.

The BBC report says Campania, an Italian city, currently has become an urban pocket of all sorts of diseases and malady; thanks to the garbage-mafia or the Great Garbage Rush!

Falling victim to toxic waste dumping by mafia, the number of tumours cases in the population has risen by 47% (men) and 40% (women). The incidence is higher among men due to sex ratio imbalance happening over the last 20-years. Incidents of congenital malformations among children and cancer among adults are sharply rising in this city.

Vacant lands in Campania, falling between Naples and Caserta, now has attained a new nickname: “The Garbage Bin of Italy”. Italy generates 100 million tonnes of waste annually. The mafia dump one third of it in the Campania landfills.

Italian mafia, in the first phase of their operations, started forcing different industries generating toxic waste to give them the contracts for disposal. The contract grew in numbers and so grew the garbage disposal business monetarily.

Soon, the mafia contractors flourished at the point of a gun and syndicated crime groups started dumping toxic waste in the landfills in Campania and Resit Landfill site in Giugliano.

The legislation of waste disposal came into force in Italy in 2001 and it was amended five years later to include 152 new types of ecological crimes, including smuggling of waste materials and illegal ways of waste disposal. But nothing happened. As mafia monopolized the garbage disposal business, toxic wastes started getting shipped to other countries. As a result, the European Union last year threatened to initiate actions against Italy.

What turned the Italian mafia contract killing, kidnapping, running illicit drug dens and extortion of money from the rich to garbage war?

Disposal of garbage & toxic waste and recycling of solid waste generates a whooping US$26 billion it is estimated that the mafia is earning €20 billion annually through garbage. Environmental crime generates an annual turnover of €6 billion. Campania, Calabria, Puglia and Sicily account for 45% of the total environment crimes committed in Italy.

A Reuters report quotes that in Camorra city, the mafia is buying massive land sites from the local residents at throw away price. They threaten them and force them to sell their lands.

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