A trash-happy public and failure of officials to sustain effective action on sanitation make Athens a filthy city

Athens is a dirty city, and not only because the public doesn’t look after it, but also because the municipal authorities provide insufficient funds for cleaning. Athens pays one-third of the sum paid by Stockholm, which covers the same area but has only 750,000 inhabitants. Even though trash is collected almost on a daily basis, in some places several times a day (compared with most of Europe where it is collected less often and those who infringe the law incur heavy fines), the results are pathetic. We throw out whatever we want wherever we want. Bins overflow and sidewalks are broken and filthy. Trash bags hang from tree branches and balconies beside busy city squares. Mattresses and broken chairs lie in the gutter, part of an endless, grubby carpet that is never cleaned. Yet, officials told Kathimerini that the city employs more than 2,000 workers to clean the streets every day, while street cleaners and more than 75 trash trucks empty bins two and three times a day. More than 100 new supervisors crack down on those who break the law and 20 water trucks clean streets and sidewalks. In 2004, the capital looked clean and shiny. We had paid 34 million euros for cleaning equipment (including 70 trash trucks, 5,000 new bins, 34 absorbent brooms for street cleaners, 18 street-sweeping machines and 15 street-washing machines). We still have the equipment but it is not in use. Nor was there any follow-up to the organization and discipline of those days. In 2007, we paid 4.3 million euros for cleaning, up from 3.7 million euros in 2006. By comparison, Stockholm, a city of just 750,000 inhabitants, pays 10 million euros a year on cleaning.