No more excuses for chronic trash woes

The garbage issue has come to a head as the management of waste in Athens has become a national shame. For a few days once or twice each year, the inhabitants of the capital witness the same old story as municipal authorities fail to collect the piling rubbish from the streets. As a result, about 4 million Athenians – that’s close to half the population of Greece – are subjected to an evil smell and an ugly sight, a mix of torture and humiliation. At the same time, the mountains of garbage are a serious health hazard reminiscent of living conditions in Third World countries. When will we see an end to this disgraceful situation? For decades, governments have come and gone but the problem remains. Politicians, local leaders, workers and local communities have so far failed to find a final solution to a problem that may indeed have many dimensions (and has actually become more complex after prolonged foot-dragging) but is no longer an issue in any of the continent’s big urban centers. So why does the problem persist here? The residents of Athens have every reason to be upset. Excuses for this unacceptable situation abound. But government and, by extension, local administration officials must realize that ordinary people care little whether a mayor is guided by political expediency or whether a minister is controlled by private interests. They just want to see an end to the city’s dysfunctional waste collection system. As far as voters are concerned, it’s up to their political representatives to come up with a final solution. It’s easy to understand why people have little interest in attending seminars on sewage sludge and biodegrading process technologies. They do not share responsibility for the incompetence of past and current administrations. They demand that their government keep the streets clear of garbage – and rightly so. As long as governments fail to deliver, the political excuses about people who seek to undermine the work of the government, the blame game of passing the buck back to previous administrations, and the sudden «disappearances» of ministers only fuel public indignation. People have had enough. Technical jargon and vacuous politicking do not neutralize the unbearable odor of rotting garbage.