Greek waste tactics costly, EU official says

A high-ranking official of the European Union?s environment directorate on Wednesday told a seminar in Athens that Greece remains an EU laggard in waste management and that the way it handles its trash is not only an ecological scourge but also a costly one that the debt-ridden country can ill afford.

Addressing an event organized by the Environment Ministry, Julio Garcia Burgues noted that Greece sends 82 percent of household waste to landfills while other EU member states continue to curb the amount of waste dumped.

Recycling has failed to take off too, with only 20 percent of waste being recycled compared to 50 percent in other member states.

Shutting down countless illegal landfills should be a priority, Burgues said, noting that these should be replaced with facilities that sort and process garbage. ?The situation is far from ideal – Greece is one of the worst countries in the EU when it comes to managing its waste,? the official told the seminar, which was attended by Environment Minister Tina Birbili.

Burgues said the situation in Greece was not just of ecological but of financial concern. ?Statistics show that instead of using waste as a resource for the acquisition of raw materials and energy, Greece simply buries it, thus losing the the resource,? he said.

For her part, Birbili said that the government?s national action plan for garbage management was due for completion in the first quarter of 2012.

She noted, however, that action was being taken already. Municipalities that do not already have waste processing facilities have started building them, she said.

Burgues held up the example of the Netherlands – which had 157 landfills in 1990 and now has just 22 – as one to be followed by Greece. In the Netherlands, 52 percent of garbage is separated at source, reducing the volume that ends up at landfills.

The Dutch also operate some incineration facilities but plan to use these less as recycling is boosted even further. Additionally, the Netherlands has one of the best records in the EU for obtaining raw materials from garbage, with 83 percent of trash being reused.

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