Environmental Crimes


UNICRI is re-launching its research and data collection activities in the domain of environmental crimes, with a specific focus on illegal dumping of toxic materials (electronic waste included) and its relation with organized crime. The overall objective is to create the basis for an integrated, comprehensive and continuative applied research programme and develop tools on the criminal phenomena of illegal dumping of toxic and e-waste.


Among the various forms and typologies of environmental crimes, the phenomenon of illegal trafficking and dumping of both hazardous and e-waste is steadily growing, and its detrimental effects are increasingly affecting the environment and world population. Though the volume of the waste dumping is hard to assess, it is estimated that around 1.5 million waste-loaded containers are shipped illegally every year, with the market value of illegal waste shipments thought to amount to between 10-12 billion USD.

Illegal trafficking and dumping of hazardous and electronic waste is characterized by the increasing involvement of trans-national criminal organizations which are attracted by  its difficult traceability and the provision of large profits.  in the context of legislative lacunas at both national and international levels. Scarce awareness and knowledge of the phenomenon, as well and poor data collection and analysis, is persistent in many countries.

UNICRI believes that environmental crime is an area of crime that needs to be addressed by national governments as a serious illicit acitivity of organized crime.

The case of Italy clearly shows the severity of illicit waste trafficking and the strong involvement of organized crime. Since the 1980s, Italian mafia-type criminal organisations, particularly Camorra and ‘Ndrangheta, have been deeply involved in different environmental crimes, including illicit trafficking of waste. The expression “Ecomafias” was introduced in 1994 on the basis of a series of well-documented cases of illegal trafficking and dumping of toxic waste. Following the increased awareness of organized crime involvement in waste trafficking, the crime of “organized trafficking of waste” was introduced in the Italian criminal code in 2001, allowing the effective investigation of trafficking cases. The research will analyse incidents of illegal trafficking of waste particularly to, from, or through Italy.


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