Waste trafficking is the illegal transportation and disposal of waste products. The methods used do not follow safety regulations. Such a crime has been around since the 19th century but has recently become a much more serious problem in Europe due to the EU's failure to modernise and deal with a growing sanitation problem (with similar problems being repeated in other industrialised countries). Growing industrial growth has lead to increased waste and certain regulations need to be followed to insure said waste is disposed of properly (especially toxic waste). The problem is such regulations are costly, hence a new form of crime- people who make waste "disappear" for a low cost.
The implications of this are staggering. Not only is this dangerous to the environment but it is deadly to humans as well. All it would take is for a some hazardous chemical to enter the water supply of a city or a town and you'd have a vast wave of sickness affect the area. Even worse such chemicals may affect babies born in the area- it would lead to growth deformities or other horrific problems. Of course it rarely happens near cities- it ends up in rural areas, which poisons the crops in farming areas and thus carries its effect on into humans.
The "Eco-Mafia" work in Italy, but the crime is apparent in other countries as well (like New York or New Jersey, where this crime is associated with the New Jersey mafia). They take waste materials such as mercury and lead and dump them untreated in the countryside or ship them to other countries (which violates current trading law). It's believed that 300,000 tons of highly toxic waste "disappears" every year. Efforts to thwart them are weakened by the lack of enforcement of environmental laws. The real problem is that the criminals pass themselves off as legitimate sanitation companies- they'll have equipment, trucks, uniforms. It is hard to tell if they are genuine or fake as the only tell-tale sign is the very low price. Even so, while the Mafia charge a low price, the criminals profit from their crimes: in Italy the "Eco-Mafia" make around 7 billion dollars each year.
The damage done is self-evident. For many years some people in Italy have been living in the region known as the "triangle of death", an area of high pollution between Acerra, Nola and Marigliana to the North East of Naples. Many have been exposed to very high levels of pollutants in the air and the water, which can increase the risk of cancer.
Waste traffickers will use tricks to disguise their intent. They'll disguise their load as fertiliser. They may ship waste several times, to different storage sites or "waste treatment facilities". Companies will change names, liquidate themselves- any tactic to make the crime hard to track. In Italy the Mafia's power and strong-arm tactics do not help matters. Anybody who confesses or speaks out becomes a target of the Mafia.
Laws are being passed in Italy to stop such crimes and measures are made to insure that the criminals are being caught (there have been recent crackdowns in Italy with several arrests). But the extent of the damage the illegal dumping sites cause is unknown and cleaning them up is a costly job. The real problem is how to stop industries accepting (or being tricked) "help" from these criminals. Until a cost effective solution is found to deal with the waste properly and easily such problems are never going to go away. The extent of the problem however is not really acknowledged by the general public, nor do people have a complete understanding of what happens to their waste or its affect on the environment, particularly as the media have failed to highlight such problems on a large scale.