Greece is wasting its garbage

Greece is set to receive heavy fines from the European Union because it is not managing its trash properly and is still burying unprocessed rubbish, waste management experts warned at a conference in Athens yesterday. «There is a huge wave of fines on its way,» said Antonis Mavropoulos, the president of the Hellenic Solid Waste Management Association (HSWMA). Brussels introduced legislation in 2003 which aims to prevent countries from burying rubbish until it is reduced by removing recyclable or biodegradable items. EU members will also have to ensure that by 2010 35 percent of biodegradable rubbish, such as food scraps and grass clippings, is turned into compost. «Unfortunately, it is 2007 and almost all the landfills in operation are illegal,» said Mavropoulos. «To make things worse, tens of landfills to be built over the next two years will also be illegal if measures are not taken.» Many EU countries have been able to reduce the amount of rubbish they bury by up to 65 percent by sorting household trash. «It is evident that mechanical biological treatment is vital to any waste management policy,» said Mavropoulos. «It is the process by which some of the rubbish is salvaged and made into compost or fuel.» But Greece still lags far behind most EU countries when it comes to processing its garbage. The conference, which was organized by the HSWMA, heard that a third of trash in Austria goes through mechanical biological treatment while German landfills are producing high-quality compost - good enough for people to use in their gardens, Joseph Barth, the managing director of the European Compost Network, said. There are small signs of progress in Greece. For instance in Hania, Crete, the operation of a recycling center has reduced the amount of rubbish that is discarded each day by 26 percent (60 tons). Most of the salvaged rubbish is turned into compost.