Noting that the use of landfills to dispose of waste is “the least environmentally sustainable and should be kept to the absolute minimum,” the commission said Italy has failed to abide by the EU’s 1999 landfill directive, which gave member states until 2009 to either rehabilitate existing dumps to bring them into compliance with the directive or shut them down completely.
In 2015, the commission urged Italy to work faster to treat 50 landfills it had identified as noncompliant and which still posed a threat to human health and the environment. Since then, Italy has only made progress on six of the sites – leading to Wednesday’s announcement of legal action by the commission.
Italy’s garbage woes have been a longstanding issue. In 2013, the European General Court affirmed the commission’s decision to yank $122 million in regional development funds for an environmentally friendly waste-disposal system in the Campania region. The court agreed Italian authorities had failed to create an adequate network of disposal sites in the region and never developed the necessary oversight to protect human health and the environment.
And in 2014, Europe’s highest court ordered Italy to pay $50 million in fines for “persistently” failing to comply with the EU’s waste-management laws. That ruling stemmed from a commission finding of 218 disposal sites were out of compliance, with many being operated without the proper permits and 16 containing hazardous waste that shouldn’t have been there.
The lawsuit against Italy is the latest in the commission’s effort to crack down on illegal landfills across the EU. Bulgaria, Cyprus, Spain, Romania, Slovenia and Slovakia have already faced the commission’s ire, and the European court has already issued judgments against Bulgaria, Cyprus and Spain.