The less heard, the less obvious.

Reggio Calabria: A City of Waste

With almost 180,000 inhabitants, Reggio Calabria, is the largest and the most populated city of Calabria, a region in southern Italy. In 2014, in an attempt to comply with Italian laws on waste disposal, was introduced a door-to-door separate collection named DifferenziAMOla. To this day, more than 50% of the population still doesn’t pay refuse taxes nor separates its waste. About 100,000 people throw their garbage randomly around the city, everyday.

The AVR is the holding company that deals with waste collection in Reggio Calabria and six other Italian regions, where it also deals with maintenance, waste disposal and decontamination. In June 2020 it was placed under seizure by mafia association and came under judicial administration. Many of its employees have yet to receive several months of back pay. On top of that, all the approved landfills in Calabria are currently closed or full. Tons of illegally dumped waste, even if collected, would have no place to be disposed of. Almost every week garbage heaps are set on fire, causing immense environmental damage.
To date, no politician in office has ever done anything to identify tax evaders, which represent more than 50% of the electorate. Released between the end of 2019 and the beginning of 2021, this project shows the stages of the administrative and social failure of Reggio Calabria, marked by the faces of those who have suffered and fought this dramatic and surreal reality for too many years.


Lt: Ciccarello, South Reggio, 2020. Bags and recycling bins piled up outside an apartment building. The organic and undifferentiated waste is often not collected for weeks, causing great inconvenience, especially in the warmer seasons.Rt: Piazza Orange, Downtown Reggio, 2021. Bags of organic waste piled up in front of a doorway, not collected for a month. “Wet waste (not collected since January 23): instead of leaving it to percolate in destroyed bags on the smelly bins (which we are sanitizing), out of RESPECT FOR PASSERSBY AND AVR’S EMPLOYEES it has been unified and sealed in these waterproof bags. They contain only and exclusively wet, please pick it up today!”
San Gregorio, South Reggio suburbs, 2019. “Do not dump or throw away waste.”
Sbarre Superiori, South Reggio, 2019. Mr. D., a cancer patient, while cleaning a on his own initiative a supermarket parking lot, closed to the public because it has become a dump.
Condera, East Reggio, 2021. Lt: The parking lot of the municipal cemetery, the largest landfill near the city centre. Rt: Mr. M. in front of his hut built with parts recovered from the garbage, where he has been living for two years along with his three dogs.
Eremo Pietrastorta, East Reggio, 2020. The dumpsters used before the introduction of door-to-door separate waste collection, piled up in the courtyard of the city’s only incinerator.Built and operated by a German company between the 60s and 70s, it was closed and abandoned following retaliation and threats by the gangs that managed the transport of waste to external collection and storage centres.

Lt: Pietrastorta, East Reggio, 2020. Pietrastorta is the closest hamlet to the city center without separate collection. The three dumpsters that only local residents are supposed to use are buried under tons of garbage. As in every other illegal dump in the city, all kinds of waste can be found here, including bulky items, construction material, hospital waste and asbestos sheets. This area is cleaned up every 50-60 days on average.
Rt: Pietrastorta, East Reggio, 2021. My wife and son in our house, about 100 mt from the dumpsters. 
San Gregorio, South Reggio suburbs, 2019. A stray at the entrance of the road that crosses the fiumara Menga. Like many other rivers in the area this is now an open dump. In the photo on the right a detail of the road, now practically paved with waste.
Ciccarello, South Reggio, 2019. A wrecked and burned car abandoned on the street. In this area piles of waste of all kinds are burned almost weekly, poisoning thousands of families living in the nearby. Despite the periodic extraordinary cleaning operations, the volume of illegally abandoned waste is so large that in fact the big masses are never eliminated.
Lt: Rione Marconi, South Reggio, 2021. Mr. Crucitti in front of his front door. Rt: Piazza Italia, Downtown Reggio, 2021. Mr. Crucitti and his wife demonstrate in front of the Prefect and the City Council, threatening to go on hunger strike. Because of their efforts to solve the garbage problem, they have suffered retaliations in their neighbourhood.
Pietrastorta, East Reggio, 2021. The “Hill of the Angels” is a huge pile of garbage and toxic waste which has now become a real plateau. Illegally created between the 60s and 90s by local gangs, accumulating waste coming from Italy and other countries, it still releases hazardous sewage. The incidence of cancer and leukemia among the citizens living in the area is very high.
Ravagnese, South Reggio, 2019. An underpass under the airport runway, closed to traffic to prevent it from becoming a landfill.

See more of Mauro’s work Here.

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