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Environmental Crime Legal Framework In Italy

Italy’s Constitution contains provisions for the protection of the environment. Of note, Article 9 “safeguards natural landscape and the historical and artistic heritage of the Nation”. In a related vein, Article 117 (s) reads that the “State has exclusive legislative powers in the protection of the environment, the ecosystem and cultural heritage.”

The state has exclusive competence in environmental regulation. The principal national authority is the Ministry of the Environment and Protection of Land and Sea (Ministero dell'Ambiente e della Tutela del Territorio e del Mare) (MATTM). Other national regulatory authorities include the:

  • Ministry of Health
  • Ministry of Economic Development
  • Ministry of Cultural and Landscape Heritage
  • Scientific agencies with a regulatory role including the:
  • National Institute for Environmental Protection and Research (Instituto Superiore per la Protezione e la Ricerca Ambientale) (ISPRA)
  • Superior Health Institute (Istituto Superiore di Sanità) (ISS)

Featured Legislation

1966: Act no. 615 (on making provisions on air pollution) was signed. The Act aims at protecting air quality and public health by laying down rules applicable to stationary equipment (Chapter II), industrial establishments (Chapter V) and motor vehicles (Chapter VI) whose emissions are likely to pollute the atmosphere. For the purpose of preventing air pollution, the national territory is divided into two zones in accordance with article 2.

1985: Law Decree 27 (No. 312) was brought into force. This Law provides for urgent provisions for the protection of all areas of particular environmental interest, as regards the territory of the Republic of Italy. The purpose of this text is to set the procedure where all Italian regions shall map and deliver the necessary data, aimed at identifying all subjects to landscape restrictions and protection measures, including water courses and other (such as rivers, streams, areas assigned to agricultural universities, national and regional parks and reserves, and other, see article a for the complete list).

1997: Legislative Decree No. 22 was introduced. This Legislative Decree, which consists of five Titles and nine Annexes, lays down the legislative framework applicable to waste management, waste disposal and waste prevention, in implementation of relevant Community legislation, namely Directives 91/156/EEC, 91/689/EEC and 94/62/EC.

2005: Legislative Decree No. 195 implementing Directive 2003/4/EC on public access to environmental information was adopted. The Decree sets forth the principles and conditions governing public access to environmental information held by public authorities. The Decree also aims at ensuring transparency and promotes the use of computer telecommunication and electronic technology to guarantee such access to the public.

2006: Legislative Decree no. 152 – The Environmental Consolidated Act (ECA) – was passed. The key environmental legislation is (Norme in materia ambientale or Codice dell’Ambiente). The ECA has six parts:

  • Environmental general principles
  • Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control (lPPC) permit
  • Water resources management and soil protection
  • Waste and packaging management
  • Remediation of contaminated sites
  • Air protection and air emissions
  • Environmental damage

2010: Legislative Decree no. 166 on Ambient Air Quality was created to measure air quality standards in the country.

2011: Legislative Decree No. 185 implementing Directive 2009/71/EURATOM was instituted, establishing a Community framework for the nuclear safety of nuclear installations. This Legislative Decree lays down amendments and addenda to Legislative Decree No. 230 of 1995 in the matter of ionizing radiation.

2012: Legislative Decree No. 150 implementing Directive 2009/128/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council was introduced, establishing a framework for Community action to achieve the sustainable use of pesticides. The Decree lays down provisions governing the use of phytosanitary products. It also aims at ensuring the sustainable use of pesticides by reducing the risks and impacts of pesticide use on human health and the environment and promoting the use of integrated pest management and of alternative approaches or techniques, such as non chemical alternatives to pesticides.

2013: Presidential Decree no. 59 was issued. The Decree introduced a single authorisation that replaced several emissions permits, which firms were previously required to obtain in order to comply with the Italian environmental rules. The authorisation is called A.U.A.(“Autorizzazione unica ambientale”).

2014: Legislative Decree no. 49 on Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) was issued. The legislation provided that the Ministry of the Environment and Land and Sea Protection must send to the European Commission a report with information on the prevention and reduction of the negative impacts deriving from the design and production of electrical equipment and electronics, and from the production and management of the waste deriving therefrom.

Case Studies: Transnational Environmental Crime, Human Security, and Biosecurity

  • The Financial Action Task Force (FATF) conducted a study in 2020 on the financial flows specific to waste trafficking in Italy, highlighting the presence of the eco-mafia in select sectors. The study aimed to explore opportunities for further regulatory and policy work to disrupt the profitability of environmental crimes. The investigation revolved around suspicious transaction reports (STRs) that recorded financial flows of companies operating in the metals and waste disposal sector without the proper licences and permits. The FATF also took heed of other anomalies such as previous shareholders being investigated by the Public Prosecutor in 2015. A  deeper dive into the company’s invoices revealed account statements showing bank transfers to other Italian companies that had previously been investigated for tax crimes, illegal metal waste disposal and laundering of the Mafia’s illicit proceeds. The majority of the companies investigated by the FATF were accused of trafficking waste to East Asian countries by the Public Prosecutor of Salerno and authorities uncovered  shipping documents which were falsified to state that the cargo consisted of goods and raw materials, as opposed to waste. Financial flows on prepaid cards and withdrawn cash garnered the attention of federal agencies who discovered that the main debit transactions in the reported company account statements contained withdrawals of cash and bank transfers arranged in favour of foreign entities. According to the FATF, the volume of financial flows involved totalled approximately USD 14.2 million (EUR 12 million).

References and Further Reading


Ministry of Ecological Transition Directorate – General for Sustainable Growth and Quality of Development: