NEWS

Less trash leads to lower charges

Municipalities that do not encourage their residents to recycle will be forced to pay more for garbage collections under a radical new plan being drawn up by the Environment Ministry. Sources revealed yesterday that the ministry is due to unveil in the next few days a draft law that will penalize any municipalities that fail to reduce the volume of rubbish produced by their residents which ends up in landfills. Under the proposed law, municipalities would pay money to a central authority responsible for collecting and weighing rubbish. The more household garbage that is recycled, the less that municipalities will have to pay. Details of what the local authorities will be charged were not available. The Environment Ministry believes that this measure will provide an incentive to municipalities to encourage residents to sort their trash and put more of it in recycle bins rather than just throw it in dumpsters. The scheme will also involve fines for municipalities that fail to reduce the amount of household waste that they dump in landfills. Environment Minister Tina Birbili said in October that the government intends to build more centers to sort rubbish so the European Union does not cut funding to Greece because of its poor recycling record. «There is a real danger that we will lose European funds and we will have to pay massive fines instead, which will throw public finances off course,» Birbili said. «Our main aim is to move toward a modern and comprehensive waste management system that will lead to a reduction of waste, more recycling, and the landfilling of only what is left.» Last week, it was revealed that a pilot scheme involving 1,500 families in Elefsina, west of Athens, would begin next year whereby each household will pay municipal taxes in line with the amount of trash it throws away. The pay-as-you-throw scheme is currently being used by municipalities in 14 European Union member states but has never been tried in Greece. Under the draft law being prepared by the Environment Ministry, a system will also be set up to recycle rubble. It is estimated that each year in Greece, public works alone lead to the creation of some 5.5 million tons of rubble. Only one-third of this is currently recycled.