Burning trash a hot issue but still acceptable

Authorities are today due to begin destroying the milk produced by cows near the Tagarades landfill in Thessaloniki, where an accidental fire burned rubbish for a week, though the government yesterday said the burning of garbage will remain a legitimate way to dispose of waste. The fire at the landfill in eastern Thessaloniki has died down but readings of air pollution levels confirmed that the number of airborne particles in the area had doubled over the last week. Rubbish trucks resumed the dumping of garbage at Tagarades as usual yesterday but the effects of the fire were visible in the surrounding areas, as authorities moved in to check how vegetables and animal products had been affected. The Thessaloniki Prefecture issued a ruling banning local farmers from selling their produce pending checks by experts. Prefectural officials are due today to collect the milk produced at 22 farms in the area and dispose of it so it does not reach humans. Samples of the milk, along with other dairy products, will be taken for further inspection as experts try to establish the levels of carcinogenic dioxins in the products. Although the Tagarades fire was an accident, it has highlighted the dangers of burning rubbish as a method of disposing of it. The government yesterday maintained that this technique may continue at Greece’s landfills. «With the review of the regional planning, new forms of waste management which had been ruled out in the past have been allowed,» Deputy Interior Minister Thanassis Nakos said. «Burning rubbish is one of the methods being discussed.» Nakos said that local authorities would have the final say on how the garbage was to be managed. He added that the fire at Tagarades was «an accident waiting to happen» due to the lack of safety measures. The deputy minister said the landfill should have closed down 16 years ago. The European Union has given Greece less than two years to sort out its waste management problem, which has seen more than 1,100 illegal landfills created around the country. The problem is made worse by the fact that the recycling of rubbish has yet to become widespread in the country. The EU wants 50 percent of packaging such as paper and plastic to be recycled, reducing the amount of garbage that ends up in landfills. But Greece is still far from that target.