Trash sparks hard bargaining between ministry and reluctant local authorities

In the plan which Vasso Papandreou, minister for the Environment, Town Planning and Public Works (YPEHODE), introduced to the Cabinet in mid-April, responsibility for waste management will lie with local government, divided into three groups for the purpose. In addition to the existing league of Athens’s municipalities (ESDKNA), there will be a league in northeastern Attica and another in southeastern Attica. Meanwhile, hard bargaining is still continuing between the ministry and the municipalities. The ministry wants to achieve the maximum possible consensus; some municipalities are angling for more compensation and better terms for accepting waste management installations, and others (chiefly local government organizations in northeastern Attica) are holding out to the last in an attempt to have the problem solved outside their backyard. YPEHODE is deploying various weapons to get their consent. First there was the landfill sites study which grades sites according to their suitability. The ministry made sure that the three firms which produced the study are of unimpeachable repute, and that the committee which is to judge the study is bipartisan. The ministry has also held successive party meetings in order to quell any opposition from within the ruling PASOK party, so far without success. The other parties have been trying – also unsuccessfully so far – to arrive at positions that strike a balance between incurring minimal political cost and finding a viable, effective solution. Third, YPEHODE has artfully avoided specifying exactly how much waste will go to each of the three landfills, because the municipalities of southeastern Attica do not want the site in their area to accept waste from other municipalities. Nobody expects vast investments to be made for the disposal of small amounts of waste. Similarly, YPEHODE has artfully avoided giving clear responses to the requests of the southeastern Attica municipalities for aerification, an alternative form of waste management, which is currently being implemented in a pilot program. It seems that the outcome of the unusual negotiations among the interested parties will be better compensation for the areas where waste management installations are sited, and that municipalities will participate in the new agencies to be created to manage the installations. Questions have arisen over the plan to create two more municipal leagues to manage waste, when all of them could have participated in the existing league.