The garbage issue

The brawl over the capital’s garbage has become an example to be avoided but, at the same time, it is highly revealing of the mentality permeating the implicated parties. The primary issue concerns the stance of citizens and is divided into two parts: On one hand, while we all produce rubbish, no one wants to shoulder his corresponding burden in terms of environmental and economic costs. On the other hand, only a very small minority of remote areas seem willing to concede the creation of waste disposal sites on their properties. The citizens’ legitimate demand for fair treatment and full coverage of the cost for the implementation of the most advanced waste-processing techniques is one thing, while the demand that garbage is moved «elsewhere,» as if it could be rocketed into space, is quite another. If we add to this the unacceptable machinations such as the outrageous roadblocks by groups of 200 or 300 people, as occurred in Mandra on Monday, then we get a picture of the prevailing mindset. The second, much more essential issue concerns the stance of the governments at the time. Driven by an opportunistic agenda, the various administrations have over the last 20 years postponed the adoption of any measures – that may be unpopular for some groups of people – aimed at a final settlement of the issue while avoiding any of the political cost. As a result, numerically weak albeit dynamic groups of interests have grown ever more insolent and have come to believe that making noise will enable them to meet their goals. What is worse, experience vindicates them. In addition, this endless procrastination raises legitimate doubts over whether the various government policies are based on careful and scientific proposals or whether they are no more than attempts to move the landfills to the areas with the fewest protests. As scientific methods for waste treatment improve in the more developed countries, citizens express rightful concerns about whether the sacrifice they are being asked to make is indeed necessary, or whether they are merely falling prey to government obscurantism or hesitation. The situation is getting worse because of the climate of corruption and entangled interests. Many fear that the proposed disposal sites have been selected not according to ecological or social criteria but only to ensure the maximum profits for the affiliated contractors. Much will be decided in the coming weeks by the government’s final decision on the issue.