The environmental deterioration created by waste abandonment is a perceived problem, and it is easy to see how the situation has worsened in recent years. There are increasing instances of waste discarded into the environment, and these include household waste, bulky waste, and even hazardous waste, such as building demolition waste, but at times also dangerous industrial waste. The situation has worsened due to the emergence of widespread incivility, poor civic pride, and reduced sensitivity to environmental issues.
Function diagram of the system for decision support (DSS) "Pulizia Sconfinata"
It is estimated that over half of waste abandonment should be viewed in relation with the increasing tendency to eat quick meals away from home.
Those areas most subject to waste abandonment are woody areas, provincial or motorway thoroughfares, city streets, industrial areas – but any area can be subject to waste abandonment.
From a legal standpoint concerning waste abandonment, a ban on waste abandonment is widespread in all European countries, and in Italy the Environmental Consolidating Act sanctions an absolute ban on the abandonment and uncontrolled deposit of refuse on or in soil. Consequently, a violation incurs a penalty if the abandonment is attributable to a company or institution, or an administrative penalty in other cases. In any event, those responsible for the abandonment or uncontrolled deposit of waste are obliged to remove waste and initiate waste disposal, and ensuring site restoration; on the other hand, in those cases where there is no-one responsible, the institution of reference is the Municipality. In regards to littering, penalties are specifically provided in municipal regulations for the management of refuse, and the Traffic Code.
The problems caused by abandonment are hygienic and sanitary, as well as environmental, and evidently economic as well. The costs to retrieve abandoned refuse or to clean up abusive disposals should, in fact, be added to those of regular collection and disposal of refuse, and fall on the community. To this should also be added the damage engendered by the aesthetic degradation of roads and land in general, which is especially significant for those towns where tourism represents an important economic activity.
To counteract this phenomenon, the most sensitive states have for over thirty years put in place dedicated initiatives in the form of advertising campaigns directed toward citizens, or initiatives for area clean-ups; but there are also initiatives that can be put in place that take advantage of new technologies to monitor the phenomenon and allow the stakeholders (Towns, Provinces, Regions, Law Enforcement, Competent Territorial Authorities, etc.) to act in a more coordinated manner, exploiting the increasingly scarce resources available.
The project “Insubria Pulizia Sconfinata” (Insubria. Cleanliness without Borders) promoted by the Province of Varese and the Republic and Canton of Ticino, within the Integrated Cross-Border Plan (PIT) Italy-Switzerland 2007-2013, called “Rifiuti: nuovi percorsi di responsabilità transfrontaliera” (Waste: new paths of cross-border responsibility), financed by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), aims to address the problem starting with a Web-GIS system that enables mapping of those areas that have deteriorated due to waste abandonment. The application provides a web-tool to report waste abandonment, supported by instruments to analyse collected data and process customisable indicators, allowing Law enforcement and Institutions to be supported, through their summary reports, in their monitoring and control activities. Following is a brief outline summarising the principal characteristics of this tool, which can be considered a true decision support system (DSS).
Following the first step, the project includes a series of actions to address the problem of waste abandonment, monitoring the area through targeted visits, actively involving, using targeted activities of awareness and education, various citizen groups based on age, eating habits, transport choices and other variables. Therefore, by acting in a coordinated and proactive matter on the punitive, environmental awareness, and education fronts, we aim to create a virtuous cycle that will eventually reduce the problem, thus eliminating the negative economic and environmental externalities linked to it.