Thessaloniki mayor vows city cleanup

Thessaloniki Mayor Yiannis Boutaris on Wednesday pledged to do everything in his power to solve the northern city?s waste management problem, starting with the collection of hundreds of tons of rotting garbage from the streets over the next 10 days.

The charismatic mayor told a press conference that he would ?even make a deal with Stalin? to solve the city?s garbage management problem but would not privatize waste collection.

He said 4,500 recycling bins would be set up by the summer to encourage city dwellers to recycle household waste and reduce the amount of trash going to landfills. Another 15 new garbage collection trucks will be added to the current fleet of 25, the mayor added.

Boutaris described the equipment and organization of the city?s trash management as ?tragic? and suggested that gas was being stolen from the garbage collection trucks.

?On December 31, 45 tons of gas was procured but by January 6 only 5 tons were left. What happened to that gas?? Boutaris said.

The mayor conceded that the system for garbage collection is disorganized and promised to reorganize it and staff it exclusively with permanent employees. Currently, 1,500 staff are listed as working in the municipal garbage collection department – 700 permanent staff and 800 on short-term contracts.

Leftist critics on Wednesday accused Boutaris of opening the road for private firms to assume management of the city?s trash.

But the mayor insisted that privatizing garbage collection was not an option. He said private employees deployed to clean up trash from the streets were a temporary solution to deal with an emergency situation.

The latest trash crisis in Thessaloniki came about last week due to a shortage of staff and the municipality?s large debts to the firm supplying its trucks with fuel. Garbage trucks stopped collecting rubbish last week as they run out of gas and the local authority had to broker a deal with its fuel supplier, which was owed 700,000 euros.

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