Our rubbish, their dump

We live in a parliamentary democracy, not a society run by prosecutors. As a result, no problem – be that corruption, bribery or the ongoing garbage crisis – can or should be solved because of prosecutors’ interventions and recommendations. We should expect the government to be the authority on these issues, unless, of course, we also believe that the government’s responsibilities belong in the same trash heap as the dozens of pre-election pledges about «total waste treatment programs.» But a government’s responsibilities do not absolve society of its own duty to be careful about what it deems trash and when, how, and where it disposes of it. On good days, when garbage collectors are on duty, no one cares how they get rid of their trash. For example, it’s typical to see some trash bins stuffed with bursting plastic bags while the trash bins right next to them are empty. On bad days, when sanitation workers strike and the trash piles up on the streets, we complain about the situation on television just minutes after adding our own garbage to the pile. It is as if we want to say, «Keep it away from my door, even if it’s in the street.» The garbage crisis justifies a recent Eurobarometer survey, which found that nine out of 10 Greeks are neither worried about increasing waste nor are interested in learning about proper disposal methods. True, kitchen waste is hard to keep at home. But it’s hard to see the point of discarding mattresses, trunks, broken TVs and bicycles on days the garbage collectors are striking. A government official speaking in Parliament recently referred to the landfill in Ano Liosia as «their» landfill, referring to the previous, Socialist administration. We probably think along the same lines. We believe the dump does not belong to Athens but to Ano Liosia – a punishment for a sin the broader area’s residents never committed.