CULTURE

Municipal recycling progresses

Blue recycling dumpsters, placed about the city streets near the garbage dumpsters, have become a regular sight in Athens and other parts of the country but, despite being clearly marked as solely for clean paper, plastic, aluminium and other packaging items that may be recycled, there have been some allegations that they are being – whether unwittingly, carelessly or uncaringly – used to dump perishable household garbage. Municipal authorities are generally pleased with the way the program is going, although the waste is not sorted by municipal workers themselves but at sorting centers in cooperation with the Hellenic Recovery Recycling Corporation (HERRCO). According to HERRCO, there are recycling programs in more than 355 municipalities and contracts with 1,170 packaging companies throughout Greece. HERRCO has invested over 22 million euros in the project so far, making it possible for about 5.2 million people to recycle. It supports 14 Recyclable Material Sorting Centers at Aspropyrgos, Maroussi, Tagarades and Thermi, Thessaloniki, Patras, Kalamata, Iraklion, Hania, Corfu, Zakynthos and Pieria. In 2006, a total of 266,623 tons of packaging waste was recycled and 19,660 tons of printed paper, about 50 percent of the target set for 2011. Although packaging waste is not heavy, it comprises 40-50 percent of the volume of urban waste, according to HERRCO. Recycling this waste takes much of the burden off municipal waste management. Athens Deputy Mayor Giorgos Dimopoulos said the city has distributed 2,000 of the blue dumpsters, and that currently 40 tons of waste is recycled at source, and there had been an 80 percent increase in the use of blue dumpsters in the first six months of their circulation. However, some Athenians – although the minority – are still getting it wrong. «About 30 percent of the material in the blue dumpsters is ordinary household waste that should have gone into the garbage dumpsters,» he told Kathimerini English Edition, «but we will be holding another public information campaign as of September in the print and electronic media to try and raise awareness.» «Eighty percent of ordinary garbage is processed at the waste treatment plant in Fyli, to the west of Athens, and processed into fertilizer, aluminium and fuel. Since last year, only 20 percent of all garbage ends up in landfill sites,» he said. Public education campaign HERRCO has taken several steps to make the public aware of its work and to educate people to take an active part in the process, in cooperation with their local municipalities. It distributes recycling bags and information leaflets to households, has held an outdoor advertising campaign and exhibitions in cooperation with local municipalities, such one held late last month aimed at encouraging a culture of recycling and getting people to take an active part in the process. It has also issued messages in the regional press and on the radio, and has a quarterly online magazine for municipal services, the state and waste handlers. A HERRCO representative said that when it has completed its agreements with the country’s municipalities, it will be able to upgrade these campaigns to national level. «People throwing ordinary waste into the blue recycling bins is a major problem. However, the open dumpster is the result of design trials,» said a company representative. «Our experience has shown us that the closed type of bins with slots for inserting paper, plastic and so on reduces their use to about one-third of the open variety because of the extra moves people have to make to deposit the material. Nevertheless, we believe that ongoing information and the adoption of smart solutions can reduce the problem.» The best results have usually been where the municipality itself is responsible for emptying the dumpsters, and so carries out the plan consistently. Also, generally speaking, municipalities in the provinces where the message has been more effectively got across have had better results. Andreas Doumas, the deputy mayor of Palaio Faliron where recycling dumpsters have been installed since before the new year, says the program is going well. «We have two trucks that collect material from the blue dumpsters,» he said, adding that misuse of them was not excessive. «People should also realize that they should not be disposing of the packaging material tied up in plastic bags, but should empty the contents of the bag into the dumpster and then add the bag separately,» he advised. Doumas said that in addition to public education campaigns, people had to encourage each other to use the dumpsters if practices are to change.