Air pollution is a problem in Italy. Data on the average annual concentration of particulate matter (PM) show that the sum exceeds 30 micrograms per cubic meter in many Italian cities. Most of these cities are located in the Po Valley. The Po Valley is a major industrial and agricultural area in Italy, located in the North of Italy and stretching from the Alps to the Adriatic Sea. However, no city registered a value over 40 micrograms per cubic meter, the annual limit value of the EU. Specifically, the PM is a mixture of fine solid or liquid droplets added to the atmosphere. Their presence can have an impact on health, causing serious problems and also leading to premature death.
A high concentration of PM in the air might not be directly perceived among the population, even if in some extreme cases a high value impacts visibility significantly. What can be more easily seen in Italy is the high amount of unsorted waste found in public spaces, for instance, on beaches. Among the most widespread types of litter collected on Italian beaches, plastic fragments, cups, cigarettes butts, polystyrene pieces and cotton buds hold the largest share. In terms of materials, 80 percent of waste is plastic waste. Consequently, a large percentage of beaches in Italy has been declared unsuitable for bathing due to pollution. In particular, about 26 percent of coast in the Northern Italian region of Veneto is not open for bathing, the highest share nationwide.
However, Italians are aware of the issues related to the environment. According to recent surveys, the most urgent environmental problems perceived by Italians are global warming and waste management. The latter represents a particularly serious problem. Indeed, Italy has more than a thousand illegal dumps. Organized crime saw a source of income in waste management. An Italian environmentalist association counted the number of environmental violations related to mafia, and the largest figure was recorded in the Southern region of Campania. On a national scale, 16 percent of the illegal activities in this sector occurred in this region.