Naples and the Campania region of Southern Italy are backdrops to the biggest criminal and environmental emergencies in Italy. The Camorra, Italy's most powerful and dangerous Mafia element, has been controlling the waste-management industry for decades in collusion with the corrupt Neapolitan government. In 1994, the European Union deemed Naples's garbage situation an official environmental emergency, however, things have only gotten worse since then. Put simply, it the result of a complete breakdown of the civil institutions that manage garbage and toxic-waste disposal.
A major European city overflowing with refuse, Mafiosos, and the some of the world's most corrupt politicians is like a giant shimmering beacon of depressing intrigue for VBS. So, of course, we had to see it firsthand. And it's worse than we could've ever imagined. Seven million tons of garbage bales are stockpiled in the region—pyramids of festering trash spread across several acres, which, even according to the most optimistic of calculations, will take at least 15 years to be disposed of and processed (and this estimate does not include the waste that will be produced during the interim). Piles of rotten garbage line the city streets and alleyways, but, because they're such nice guys, every so often the authorities send the military to burn it. And Neapolitans wonder why their lungs feel like the inside of a scorched dumpster every few months.
If all of this wasn't enough, the countryside of Campania is dotted with illegal toxic waste dumps that are managed, once again, by the Camorra. This has led to wonderful tourist attractions like mutant sheep, thoroughly contaminated fields still used for farming, poisonous mozzarella, and to the realization that the bucolic images of Southern Italy you see on those cheesy postcards at the Naples International Airport are utter bullshit.
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