NEWS

US and EU have differing approaches

A decade ago, the European Union – as both a united organization and as separate states – adopted recycling and safe hygienic burying of any remaining waste as the best approach to waste management. The combination, which deals with 95 percent of waste in the United States, has gained ground in Europe in recent years. Although it has not issued a directive prohibiting incineration and its various, improved forms – mainly for reasons to do with the market – the EU has adopted guidelines and regulations which establish environmental protection standards and give priority to the recycling-landfill combination. Investment in waste management by incineration has decreased significantly in Europe in recent years. In Greece, the proponents of incineration have virtually disappeared (whereas in the early 1990s, many favored it). The first aim of European solid waste management strategy is still prevention: In other words, limiting the amount and the hazardousness of the waste that is produced. The second aim is recycling; the third is the rational and safe transfer of solid waste (based on the principle of proximity); and the last is its ultimate disposal by hygienic landfill burial. Britain has already adjusted completely, followed by Germany, France and the Scandinavian countries. The European Commission does not intrude with specific proposals and indications of what methods or technologies are to be used by each member state, but it does set certain rules and standards. In addition to its strategic guidelines, the EU published Directive 99/31 EC on landfills, accompanied by a fairly technical annex on the construction, environmental monitoring and eventual reclamation of landfill sites. Meanwhile, the municipalities of southeastern Attica have proposed that any waste remaining after recycling should be dealt with by aerification, a method requiring small landfill sites. There has been no opposition to this from any Greek university. The proponents of the method claim that it is environmentally acceptable because minimal gas is produced; they also note that it is a far more economical method. They admit that it has not been implemented in any European country, but is in operation in Toronto; the inventors of the method are Canadian. There are many people who oppose the introduction of this method, and they note that two units in Sweden and Australia, which employed the aerification process, have gone out of operation, and they say it would be unwise to invest heavily in something which is essentially still in an experimental stage. Neither the ministry nor ESDKNA have taken a stand on the issue, since they have not received a complete proposal to evaluate. In any case, no matter which method is chosen, landfill sites are a necessity.