Deadline looms as landfills flourish

Greece is likely to miss a European Union deadline requiring the shutdown of landfills as there are currently more than 3,000 illegal dumps around the country which have to be closed by the end of next year. According to figures obtained by Kathimerini, there are 3,066 landfills across Greece which take up 4,000 hectares, despite government claims that only 1,000 illegal dumps currently exist. Data show the government has spent some 150 million euros on shutting down landfills but many of them still operate in what has become a big business. Those wishing to dump a ton of waste from building sites pay between 15 to 20 euros while the cost of disposing of a ton of hospital waste amounts to 70 euros. Experts say the government needs to handle the problem at a central level rather than leaving each municipality to resolve its own waste woes. «The problem is real and illegal landfills still operating continue to take up sea and land resources,» said Antonis Mavropoulos, president of the Hellenic Solid Waste Management Association. «It could be handled with 13 large contracts in the country’s 13 regions as the municipalities cannot meet the cost of shutting down and replacing illegal landfills on their own.» According to some experts, there will be an estimated 500 unregulated dumps in operation after the EU deadline lapses at the end of 2008, with many of them in the Peloponnese and on the islands.