The person who served as the prime mover behind the zero-waste movement in Italy is one of the awardees of the Goldman Prize, the equivalent of the Oscar for the environmental movement. Waste campaigner Rossano Ercolini is an organizing member of the Zero Waste International Alliance. He continues to campaign for reduction of waste and recycling and closure of incinerators.
Ercolini is 56 years old and is an elementary school teacher by profession. He has been a key player in improving waste management systems in 123 municipalities in Naples, Italy.
A better city
Ercolini has done much to solve the waste crisis that has been assailing Naples, a city of almost one million people, for a long time. He pushed the city to engage in its zero-waste goals. He is working with the mayor and the clergy. As a matter of fact, he has involved the Bishop of Lucca to call the burning of wastes in incinerators as “immoral.”
For many years, Naples had a major waste disposal issue with rubbish littered on the streets. In 2007 garbage bags were piled high at every corner because they were not collected for weeks at a time. Ercolini made a bold move in 2011 and succeeded in convincing the mayor of the city to implement a zero-waste strategy. This alternative to the “burn or bury model” that was traditionally practiced in Italy and Europe is now benefiting around two million people.
Big dreams start from small initiatives
Ercolini said in an interview that he was unaware of the kind of international attention that his work has been getting. He has been devoted to his work for a long time, having started in the 1970s, kick started by plans to build an incinerator near his place of employment. Subsequent issues related to waste issues occurring much later in his hometown gave him the impetus to focus his efforts on waste management.
At this time, Ercolini continues to put “pressure” on the Naples administration to ensure that the local government officials live up to their promise and devote themselves fully to the waste management strategy. He has indeed gone very far from his initial success in Capannori, his hometown in Tuscany. The citizens of this town now recycle 82% of the solid waste that they generate. Ercolini is hoping that the European Union will approve zero waste legislation.
Ercolini was very humble in his acceptance speech and happily accepted the recognition for two decades of environmental campaigning. Ercolini is joined in the honors by a marsh restoration project head from Iraq and a campaigner for anti-fracking from Africa. This year’s winners received the recognition in a formal ceremony in San Francisco, the Zero Waste Europe gala.
The Goldman Environmental Prize was put up by Richard and Rhoda Goldman in 1989. The Goldman’s are civic leaders from San Francisco. Nominations are accepted from organizations and individuals from around the world. The prize winners are identified by an international jury. The Goldman Prize is considered as the “Green Nobel.”