Trash piles up as recycling fails

The amount of rubbish produced per person in Greece has increased 43 percent to 440 kilos per year since 1995 with packaging waste - from food and consumer items - adding to household garbage, experts said yesterday. Most of the household rubbish ends up in any one of the 1,200 legal and illegal landfills that can be found across Greece. «The big increase in rubbish is due to the increase in packaging,» said Phillipos Kirkitsos, president of the Hellenic Recycling Corporation. Waste management is one of Athens's biggest problems as the government has failed to effectively implement recycling programs that can adequately absorb a large portion of household trash. Experts estimate that plastic items amount to 20 percent of residential waste while the figure in Germany stands at 2 percent. Sources said that Nikitas Kaklamanis, who takes over the position of Athens mayor on January 1 from Theodoros Behrakis, will kick off his four-year term by setting up a meeting with Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis to discuss waste management. Worker strikes and construction work on parts of the Ano Liosia landfill, the capital's only dump, have often left massive piles of rubbish rotting in the capital's streets. A move last year by supermarket chains to charge customers for plastic bags was met by strong opposition from consumers groups who saw the decision as a profit booster rather than an environmentally friendly effort. Experts said that the recycling of plastic bags is a time-consuming and costly procedure, since the bags must be washed clean of food scraps. «Plastic bags are produced in less than a minute, are used for an average of 20 minutes and exist for more than 400 years,» said Nikos Katsaros, the former president of the Association of Greek Chemists. Meanwhile, sources said that a decision on the legality of the three landfills in Keratea and Grammatiko in eastern Attica and Fyli in northwestern Athens is expected in February from the Council of State, Greece's highest administrative court.