OPINION

Privatizing waste collection

Refuse collectors in Athens have called a strike for the third time this month. The fact that Greece is still facing a waste-disposal problem in the 21st century is enough to place it in the Third World category. Naples in Italy, which is facing the same problem, is run by the local mafia. Greece is run by vested interests. Olympic Airways was privatized because it was costing taxpayers 1 million euros a day. Trash collection is costing us a lot more, because it also has an impact on our health. Unscrupulous unionists have no qualms about exposing the population to dangerous epidemics merely to protect their own perks and privileges. The striking workers are protesting the sacking of short-term contract employees. If the latter lose their jobs, then the former will have to do what they were hired to do in the first place. The burgeoning piles of garbage are also taking a toll on our image. Greeks who are accommodating friends from abroad are ashamed to show them around the city. Foreign tourists visiting the Parthenon are obliged to put up with the sight, and the stink, of rubbish-strewn streets on the way. On the other hand, there is a great chance that they will get there only to find the gates locked by protesting security guards – so it could all be seen as a form of psychological preparation. The ritual is repeated year after year – but the holiday season is a great opportunity for blackmail. And we are going to see more of that, unless we opt for a more radical solution: privatization. This being a seriously corrupt country, of course, private contracts are no panacea. But these problems can be solved without becoming ideological problems. This is not a «neoliberal» proposal, nor is it an original one – the National Technical University of Athens has delegated sanitation services to a private company – nor is it an expensive proposal. Contracting waste collection out to private companies would be cheaper and greener since private businesses actually make money out of recycling. Privatization would not harm the workers as they could then be hired by the firm that undertakes the project. The only people to lose out would be the unionists and extortionists. The idea was put forward by the Portokali (Orange) group which ran in municipal elections along with Giorgos Kaminis. Kaminis did not adopt the proposal. Perhaps it’s time to give it a rethink.