The article aims mainly to shed light on the twisted waste management system (both urban and industrial), including its illegal variants, using a holistic and multidisciplinary approach, explaining why in some cases and in specific geographical areas good management solutions prevail, while in others, wasteful or illegal practices spread.
The results of the whole waste management system essentially depend on the length of trade chains, the way in which they are structured, the circuits activated and the opportunities available. That’s why the opening of alternatives to the legal channels isn’t only caused by criminal structures, but also by political and economic/industrial decisions. The model of governance and the quality of public (and, in some case, also private) policy in waste management are the key to favour or hinder the presence and the strength of criminal groups, in particular concerning waste traffickers.
The waste management system is a network and includes several actors, each of them playing a fundamental role in the whole chain. Illegality can surface in each ring of the chain. As a result, the models of (public and/or private) governance should integrate technical elements with social and environmental needs, and public policy should always be calibrated on the characteristics of social networks, considering both formal and informal relationships within the community taken into account.
In fact, waste traffickers’ networks can be better understood using the structural paradigm implicit in the social network analysis, which in the case of waste, as this article confirms, appears particularly relevant. In conclusion, the analysis of social networks is a crucial step to understand the implementation of the best practices in waste management.