The “Land of Fires” indicates an area in Campania, in the south of Italy were, systematically, since the end of the ‘80s, toxic wastes have been dumped by organized crime (i.e., camorra, the name for the Neapolitan mafia). Organised crime plays, as a matter of fact, a significant role in the waste management industry; however, organized criminals are not the only players.
Although in the public opinion the mafia clans are the most important subjects involved in the illegal waste trafficking, a significant role is also played in this field by many businessmen and firms. Corruption is a crucial element that connects all these actors in the waste sector, characterized by the grant of public licenses and authorizations. Moreover, this sector needs large economic investments and has to face a huge bureaucratic machine, which makes the ground even more fertile for corruption.
All these conditions hamper the competition and facilitate the creation and the development of oligopolistic forces, where the strength of mafia intimidation turns out to be particularly effective. The weak (or the absolute lack of) enforcement power at both national and regional levels has been used to explain this widespread illegal situation, but responsibilities actually lie at various governance levels, spanning from inefficient bureaucracy to political patronage and criminal malfeasance. Moreover, the lack of adequate (and effectively enforced) waste management policies has created institutional and regulatory uncertainty which fosters the illegal market of waste.
On these premises, with the present case study report we aim to investigate how and why some associations and organizations become a reference point for the victims of those waste-related environmental crimes. The victims of the present analysis are not such ex-lege, but are those people who maintain the status of being victims of illegal waste disposal, and that were identified through several semi-structured interviews. An affiliation networks analysis was developed to study how the victims interacted over time with different associations; the findings obtained allows us to say that victims are strengthening their relationships with local associations in the network and are starting to play an important role to reinforce their socio-political and judicial actions and to combat the illegal practices that can considerably affect their lives.