The project and the construction of the waste incinerator with energy recovery of Acerra is to be framed within the “state of emergency” for the management of urban trash declared by the Central Government in the Campania Region from 1994 to 2009. The “emergency” allowed for the application of special laws and the derogation of ordinary ones.
Following the declaration of the “emergency", the Government appointed a Commissioner for the tasks of: 1) drafting a Regional Plan for garbage disposal; 2) assigning the contract for the construction of facilities through a tender. The Regional Plan established the construction of two incinerators, seven facilities for the production of Refused Derived Fuel (RDF) and several landfills. In 1998, it was issued the tender for the assignment to a private entity of the entire waste cycle. The tender ended in 2000 and the winner was the FIBE (a temporary association of private entities coordinated by the Italian Impregilo). FIBE won the tender because it offered a price for waste disposal lower than competitors and shorter deadlines for delivering the plants. Instead, the technical quality of such proposal was evaluated very poor .
Moreover, the FIBE, through not transparent procedures, was successful in imposing to the Commissioner very advantageous conditions for its business. First, the possibility of managing through incineration the totality of garbage annually produced in the Region without implementing recycling schemes; second, the adoption of the deliver or pay mechanism, according to which each municipality must give to the private entities predetermined quantity of waste or pay the difference; and third, FIBE obtained the authorization to store the RDF produced before the completion of incinerators in temporary storage sites throughout the Region . The Commissioner left the decision on the localization of facilities to the companies involved, and FIBE decided unilaterally to build an incinerator of 600,000 t/y in the Pantano area belonging to Acerra municipality, in a territory already ecologically compromised.
The "state of emergency" allowed to bypass the VIA (Valutazione Impatto Ambientale: environmental impact evaluation) before constructing the incinerator. However, later on, the Ministry of the Environment issued 27 prescriptions for planning and technological adaptation. According to the initial agreements, the incinerator had to be built in 300 days, but due to the company's technical inability, it took five and half years.
In 2000, Acerra's citizens learned of the incinerator construction and soon after a citizens committee was created against it. The latter has collected and disseminated information about the waste cycle, has proposed alternative procedures for waste management and has denounced irregularities and abuses. From 2002 to 2004 the construction site was occupied by Acerra's citizens. Moreover, a garden, social activities and information campaigns were set up in the area.
The incinerator was opposed based on locally performed environmental, health-related, social and economic evaluations. Acerra's citizens have organized several demonstrations against the construction of the incinerator. In 2004, the "Zero Waste Italian Network" was founded in Acerra and several citizens committees started organizing autonomous recycling schemes. In August 29 2004, a demonstration, of 30,000 people was brutally repressed by police forces, heavily influencing the outflow of citizen participation.
In 2005, the judiciary has seized those RDF facilities processing the waste that were not in accordance with the law. In 2008, the Italian Government has permitted the incineration of the illegal RDF and of the unprocessed waste as well. Moreover, CIP6 renewable energy incentives have been extended also to incinerators, thus guaranteeing high profits to managers of such facilities.
The incinerator was opened in 2009. Its management has passed from FIBE to A2A, a company from Brescia, while the incinerator was bought by the Campania Region.
Today the incinerator works at full capacity. Citizens’ mobilization has never stopped and the local community continue to demand the shutting down of the incinerator. Monetary compensations for hosting the facility never arrived to Acerra’s people.
Currently, there are not independent bodies for the control of the emissions, the polluted areas of the agricultural land have not yet been reclaimed and there are still high health risks caused by contamination.