Waste cleanup begins

At Ano Liosia’s waste dump, thousands of tons of garbage are still thrown unsorted onto a giant mountain. But on the opposite slope, the new Attica Waste Recycling and Composting Factory and other advanced technology units, such as the Hospital Waste Incineration Unit, present a different picture for the future. According to Giorgos Arvanitis, environmental engineer and head of the project for the association of Attica’s municipalities (ESDKNA), the 67-million-euro factory is a completely automatized unit where workers «hardly need to touch anything.» Those in charge are justifiably proud of the project. A number of obstacles had to be overcome, including the usual bureaucratic delays and financial straits, particularly the transfer from one Community Support Framework to another. The last hurdle to cross was the problem of electric power. Although the factory was ready to begin operations some months ago, it had to wait for the Public Power Corporation (PPC) to lay 12 kilometers (7 miles) of cables. This was recently accomplished. The unit can deal with an average of 1,380 tons of household waste, 300 tons of processed waste from the Psyttaleia plant and 150 tons of plant matter daily. By recycling and composting, the factory can produce 360 tons of soil compost (for use in suburban and urban green spaces, and in restoring quarries and landfill sites, among other things), 390 tons of RDF (a composite of plastic and paper used as industrial fuel) and nearly 40 tons of compressed metal and 10 tons of aluminum, which can be sold on the market. After processing, 360 tons will end up in landfill sites as useless material and another 670 tons will be lost as steam. At present, 5,500 tons of garbage end up at the Ano Liosia landfill site every day. When the factory begins operation, it will absorb about a third of the total weight, and about 25 percent of Attica’s huge amount of refuse will be made use of. There are provisions for a separate process for materials that are able to be recycled immediately, collected in special bins, further increasing the factory’s efficiency. ESDKNA authorities make no secret of their concern about covering future costs. Although the union has enough funds to open the factory, it cannot bear the burden on its own. «The factory’s operating costs are estimated at 2.5 billion drachmas a year, of which a billion is for electricity,» said Arvanitis. «We have to understand that environmentally friendly solutions mean higher costs, which we have to pay if we don’t want to pay much more later to repair damage to the environment,» said Giorgos Landzourakis, head of the association. ESDKNA will of course apply for a share of the capital collected from the compulsory recycling tax paid by businesses for the packaging of their products. The factory is already operating on a trial basis, increasing its capacity over 200 days until it reaches its full potential, and is a major step on the road to better waste management in Greece.