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Complaints over landfill reduce if residents are compensated

People living close to municipal waste sites are less likely to complain if they are better informed about the facilities and have “received economic compensation”, research has suggested.

A study involving the University of Southampton looked at public perceptions of odour nuisance in four villages situated around two landfill sites and a refuse derived fuel plant in the Campania region of Italy. Researchers compared perceptions before and after they were all closed in 2008.

The results, published in the Waste Management journal, suggested people living furthest from the facilities were more concerned than those living nearby. Residents’ perception of odour nuisance diminished between 2003 and 2009 in the nearest villages following “substantial media coverage”.

The paper said: “It is possible that residents of the village nearest to the facilities reported lower awareness of and concern about odour and environmental pollution because the municipality received economic compensation for their presence.”

Professor Ian Williams, head of the university’s Centre for Environmental Sciences, said: “This study clearly shows that user surveys have an important role to play in providing practical assistance to the development of improved sustainable waste management strategies.

“A lesson for future installation of solid waste facilities is that residents have to be adequately informed about the nature and specific characteristics of these facilities and the requirement to equip a country with essential infrastructure.”

Last year, Environment Agency chairman Lord Smith warned a minority of waste businesses were causing friction within local communities. A report by the agency said the most frequent complaints were about odour and noise – with odour as the top cause of complaint about permitted waste sites.

Italy’s Campania region has suffered from poor waste management in the past, with many linking organised crime groups to illegal dumping.

In 2008 it was reported that large amounts of waste dumped on the streets of Naples was in part caused by the Camorra crime syndicate.

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