On 10th of January, Professor Giulia Costa, Environmental Quality Control teacher to the Global Governance third-year students, organized a visit to the Mechanical Biological Waste Treatment Plant of Malogrotta. Located in the Galleria Valley, Western Rome, the Malogrotta landfill is the largest municipal solid waste site in Europe surrounded by industrial facilities.
Our visit was based on one of the topics which we covered during the course, namely the focus on different types of Waste Management strategies, starting from the production process of waste and mechanisms on how to improve and invest in the final products. The purpose of the visit was not only to better understand the theory, but also the practical side of the waste management procedures. We students thus had the opportunity to witness firsthand the process of treating the waste produced by the whole Roman Municipality. Thanks to our Professor, who explained every detail on how the Treatment Plant worked, we now have a better perspective on what is happening “behind the scenes”. We understood how crucial technologies are in order to improve the efficiency of the whole waste-treatment process, and how recycling is not just a word we hear from time to time; it is truly important for everyone’s well-being to have waste treated correctly.
Some of the students’ impressions on the visit:
Anastasiia Ivanova and Anastasiia Soboleva: It was really engaging to visit the waste treatment plant – especially for us, since we are students of the double degree programme with a Russian university, where we study political science. This trip offered us an extra opportunity to feel all the seriousness of the modern challenges, ecological in particular, which Global Governance tries to tackle. Once we arrived at the plant, the thing that struck us right away was the volume of all the waste delivered there. In fact, usually, we do not contemplate the future of a garbage bag that we put near the dustbin, leaving it to someone else to treat. But this “someone else” works there, at such waste management plants, and actually it is them who let us not think of it, who take a bulk of our responsibility to care about that garbage bag. And, of course, technologies applied to treat the waste, as well as make to some useful by-products are amazing.
Emmanuel Krah: It was my first time visiting a facility as such. Among other things, what really struck me was that the organic fractions of the waste are kept for a month under strict conditions, mainly for bacteria to eat it up. Principally for economic reasons, a lighter fraction (dry fraction) of the waste that is without metals is made in bales and sent around the world in countries as Bulgaria and Portugal, to ultimately get fuel in exchange.
Fun fact: once, there was an incineration plant for hospital waste, but it has now stopped functioning and it can thus be considered a Brownfield.
Zhang Zikang: I am so glad that I had an opportunity to visit this waste treatment plant; I had never seen one before, and I was curious about everything in there, comprising of machines working to treat the waste of Rome. In the beginning, we saw the monitoring room in which we can know whether the equipment was functioning well and how waste of every kind and in different sections was treated.
This visiting was very meaningful for me because I learned how necessary it is for people to properly dispose of waste and how revolutionary the role of technology is. I am very grateful for the scientific and technical knowledge I gained, as I now can better understand how these processes can help the environmental protection.
Jingyuan Li: The visit to the waste plant was a very impressive trip. We learned the processes of selecting mixed waste by visual experience. Usually, in our daily life, we know how to divide the different types of rubbish, however, we still have a huge amount of mixed trash, which in the end will be mostly incinerated. The waste incineration process will emit polluted air and cause bad effects for our health and natural environment. The waste plant we visited was one of the most efficient mechanical plants, each process was monitored by the computer systems. Nonetheless, even if we have modern and selective techniques to treat mixed waste, there still is a long way to go to produce the lowest possible levels of environmental cost.
Rossella Rao: I personally was struck by the fact that the gasification chamber was closed in 2011 and therefore the treated waste is sent to different plants all over Italy and in some parts of Europe such as Bulgaria. This explains that the management of waste is a complex issue and that there is still a lot that has to be done. Hopefully, with technological innovation and strict regulations, we can ensure sustainability to the future generations.
Federica Barbera: As a Roman, I found the visit to Malagrotta waste treatment plant very informative. Indeed, the municipality of Rome has faced a lot of issues related to waste; in particular, a few years ago it dealt with a scandal which was related to the poor management of the landfill and corruption. Now, thanks to the exhaustive lessons of Professor Costa, I can understand better the environmental damages that it might have caused.
In conclusion, in addition to the abovementioned matters, the visit to the Malagrotta Mechanical Biological Waste Treatment Plant made us GG students realize the real complexity of the waste treatment sector. Indeed, there is a whole wide spectrum of dynamics and delicate equilibria that we were not truly aware of, before.
The overall experience confirmed to us what we already had the chance to witness many times before: active learning is crucial in order to gain an understanding that goes much deeper than the one you could get through a more traditional (and much more common) learning experience – as, for instance, the learning by reading. The difference lies in the gap that exists between knowing something and understanding something. There is, indeed, a huge distinction between the two things. Theoretical learning allows you to know several different facts about any given matter. Practical learning, however, really gives you the chance to understand what all that information actually means.
Thanks to the Environmental Quality Control lectures, we were theoretically conscious of what waste treatment is about; nonetheless, we still lacked the real and keen awareness of what it is at a practical level. The field trip to Malagrotta made us realize, at least a little bit more, what that really entails and how things in that particular sector are much more complex than they might seem on books.