Waste mounts after Christmas

The wrapping and packaging from Christmas presents that yesterday adorned garbage bins around the country is just part of the mounting domestic waste that Greece produces, which, according to European Union statistics, has grown by some 50 percent in a decade. Waste collectors yesterday began the task of gathering the rubbish left over from Christmas celebrations and dumping it in the country’s landfills. Figures from the European Environment Agency (EEA) show that Greece is the EU laggard when it comes to recycling its domestic waste. The EU body found that in 2002 Greece came last among the 15 pre-enlargement member states in recycling. Only 29 percent of products in Greece were recycled that year, compared to an EU average at the time of 55 percent. This is partly due to a failure on the part of authorities to come up with a coordinated and committed recycling program. The Union of Municipal Authorities in Attica (ESDKNA) runs a paper-recycling scheme but it has only had limited success. Just 10,000 tons of paper are placed in some 3,400 special containers around Attica each year. The City of Athens launched its own pilot recycling program but has not yet made the results of its tests public. It is estimated that some 2.5 million tons of products that could be recycled in Greece each year end up being dumped in landfills instead. According to research by the EEA, Greece produced just over 4.5 million tons of domestic waste in 2001 – a rise of 48 percent from 1991 when it produced 3.1 million tons. Experts estimate that Greece now creates 5.5 million tons of waste. The figure is set to increase by 35 percent within the next 15 years unless some action is taken. A recent study in Thessaloniki suggested that almost a third of this waste was paper-based and 4.5 percent was made of glass. Greece is the third-fastest-growing producer of rubbish in the EU after Malta and Ireland. The Union said that it wants to limit the amount of garbage thrown away by each citizen every year to 300 kilos.