Why is Rome so dirty?


Planning a trip to Rome? If you tell your friends, they might warn you about crowds, pickpockets, or other problems tourists usually face abroad. Others might tell you to brace yourself for the city’s dirty streets full of trash. They say streets are piled high with garbage bags, and littering is more common than in other places.

Why is Rome so dirty
Why is Rome so dirty?

But is Rome actually dirty? You often hear rumors about European cities being dirtier and more dangerous than they really are. However, there may be a bit of truth to this statement. Read more to find out why is Rome so dirty!

Is Rome Actually Dirty?

In a word: yes, Rome is dirty. However, this is to be expected of large metropolitan areas to a certain extent. All across the globe, cities like New York, Paris, and Beijing aren’t exactly famous for their spotless streets and efficient waste management. With almost 3 million people living in one place, there’s bound to be a lot of trash buildup.

To save face with the huge tourist population who comes to town, the local government does a great job of maintaining the city center. If you stop in Rome for a weekend, you won’t have time to venture to the far reaches of the city, so you probably won’t get the impression that it’s dirtier than any other city. However, the outer districts, whose streets are full of rotting garbage, are a different story.

Sacks of garbage pile high out of metal bins due to infrequent pickups from waste management. They’re impossible to avoid, from parts of the center to little suburban districts. Their stench wafts into cafes and apartment windows.

This smell has attracted wild boards into the outer neighborhoods! These dangerous invaders ransack trash bins and make a huge mess and a huge safety hazard for locals caught outside when they come around. What’s more, is that some boars have tested positive for African Swine Flu, a disease that can be fatal for pets. Some districts have curfews to protect residents from boar attacks.

The acceptance of littering doesn’t help either. Most locals have the common sense to throw their trash where it belongs, and there are many initiatives for recycling and curbing waste production. However, some couldn’t care less about the environment and would shrug their shoulders if you criticized them for throwing a paper cup or plastic bag on the ground.

The litter problem has been exacerbated by the lack of public trash cans around the city. “Cleaner” cities usually have garbage receptacles on every corner. Some even have segregated bins for recycling! Here, on the other hand, you might have to walk 5 to 10 minutes with your trash in your hand to throw it somewhere.

The Waste Management Issue

Before you start blaming Italians for the condition of their city, it’s not the average citizen’s fault! Sure, there may be a few bad apples dropping cigarette packs on the ground, but there’s not enough of them to make such a big dent.

The problem comes from something much dirtier: shady political and business dealings. Rome’s main landfill, Malagrotta, was shut down in 2013 due to leaks caused by poor management. It was Europe’s biggest landfill at the time. There’s been no true replacement for this facility ever since, and the two mayoral administrations who have been in charge since the closure have struggled nonstop with the trash issue.

Rome waste management
Rome waste management (Image source: Wikimedia)

There have been talks about reclaiming the landfill by 2025 and turning it into a green initiative by capturing all of the biogas produced and using it. However, a mysterious fire in the summer of 2022 slowed progress considerably. The city government was working on reclaiming it, but the plant was still in use by a private company that processed over a thousand tons of garbage every day but shipped it elsewhere.


So maybe Rome has a bit of a trash problem. However, don’t let this deter you from visiting the city! Garbage in the streets is more of a warning for people considering moving to the Italian capital.

Coming as a tourist? Stick to the center. It’s quite large and contains all the attractions, food and nightlife you need. Sure, it may be messy because of crowds, but you won’t notice the large-scale waste management issues since the city strives to keep the downtown area clean.

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