The problems have been building up since the mid 1990s because there are not enough waste disposal landfill sites in Naples to cope with the amount of waste.
The existing sites are mainly located near residential areas, and the dubious nature of the material being dumped there has made residents very unhappy about living near the dumps.
The problems are exacabated by the involvement of the Napolitan Mafia, the Camorra, in the waste disposal business. They make high profits from illegal dumping, including toxic waste, and it is not in their interests to find solutions that do not involve them.
In January 2008, the Prodi Government proposed the building of three new incinerators to solve the problem, but no progress had been made by the time he was voted out in May. By this time there were 200,000 tons of rotting rubbish on the streets of Naples.
The new Prime Minister, Silvio Berlusconi, took immediate action, making the crisis his priority and appointed the head of the Civil Protection Agency, Guido Bertolaso, to solve the problem. Despite ongoing protest, Bertolaso opened a new landfill site and a new incinerator, he sent 700 tons of rubbish a day to incinerators in Germany, and planned the building of more incinerators. By september 2008 there was no rubbish left on the streets of Naples.
In March 2009, Bertolasso moved onto a new project and Berlusconi declared the problem solved. However, much of the rubbish was actually being held in temporary sites and more trouble was waiting around the corner. In October 2010 waste collection was again halted when rioting broke out in the an area of Naples called Terzigno. The residents erupted in fury when they learnt that the government was opening a new landfill site in a protected area, within the Vesuvius National Park, very close to an earlier controversial site. The residents, already concerned about the high toxic levels at the first site, accuse the government of collusion with the Camorra, believing that there are insufficient controls to prevent the continued dumping of toxic waste in the area.