Eternally stinky city? Rome garbage crisis sparks health fears

Photo: AFP

Landfills in flames and rats feasting on waste in the streets have sparked health fears in Rome, as doctors warn families to steer clear of disease-ridden curbside garbage and locals launch a disgusting dumpster contest online.

Crowds of summer tourists are forced to navigate overflowing bins in the stifling heat, as the pungent perfume of neglected garbage draws scavenging animals and the threat of disease to the Eternal City and locals fume over the city's refuse management.

Rome's chief physician Antonio Magi has issued a "hygiene alert", telling AFP this could be upgraded to a health warning, with disease spread through the faeces of insects and animals banqueting on rotting waste.

His warning prompted local prosecutors to open an investigation this week into the city's refuse collection.

In the meantime, furious Rome residents have launched a contest on Twitter to find the most fetid dustbins.

Discarded pizza boxes or the remains of spaghetti lunches and fruit rinds draw opportunistic seagulls, rats and even wild boars to the streets of Rome, with wolves also spotted closer to the city's outskirts than ever before.

Adding to the indignation of Rome residents is the steep price they are paying for their garbage to rot in the streets.

The city spent more than 597 euros ($670) per inhabitant on household waste treatment in 2017 - by far the highest in the country, ahead of Venice (353 euros) and Florence (266 euros), according to a report by the Openpolis Foundation.

But the city lacks infrastructure: of its three main landfills, one has closed and the others were ravaged by fire in recent months.

And two biological treatment sites have reduced their activities for maintenance work.

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