Recycling race for 2004

The Environment and Public Works Ministry is hoping to get 50 percent of the country’s production of waste from packaging materials (plastic, paper, aluminium, glass) recycled by the end of 2005. The minister, Vasso Papandreou, announced the move at a recent conference on the alternative management of waste, but Interior Minister Costas Skandalidis was more reserved. «I am not sure we will succeed, but we are going to try,» he said. A nationwide system of recycling packaging waste has already begun, as of March 1. Some municipalities (Maroussi, Filothei, Neo Psychico and Zakynthos among them) are already operating such systems, but now the system is being expanded to cover the whole country. Next to the now-familiar green dumpsters for common waste, there will be blue containers for packaging material. According to Papandreou, priority will be given to the Olympic cities, including Thessaloniki, Patras, Volos, Larissa and Irakleion, Crete, and towns in Attica so that the system will be in full swing, at least in these places, by the time the Games start. «The eyes of billions of people will be upon us,» as Papandreou said. But recycling does not (at least it should not) begin and end there. More than 4.2 million tons of solid waste are produced in Greece every year, of which only a small percentage is recycled. After packaging waste, it will be the turn of six more materials determined recently in presidential decrees: vehicles, tires, batteries, mineral oils, electric and electronic equipment and material from demolitions, excavations and construction. Beyond what the State can do, it is the behavior of the people themselves that will be an important factor in the success of the undertaking. «Alternative waste management is not an easy task,» admitted Papandreou, «because apart from anything else, awareness of the environment is not so well developed in Greece.» The ministry is planning a series of actions to raise citizens’ awareness and involve them in the process. Papandreou said that by 2006, another 2,000 skilled and professional jobs will be made available within these programs, representing an investment of over 250 million euros.

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