Recycling Around the World: Greece

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Waste management has traditionally been a problem in Greece. The combination of poor organisation, reliance on landfills and more recently, the country’s financial problems hasn’t helped the situation. However, things are improving and waste management is slowly becoming more organised and environmentally responsible.

 

Waste management practises

Reliance on landfill

Greece is very dependent on landfill for disposal of waste. In 2010, 81% of waste was being sent to landfill, which is among the highest in the EU. Unbelievably, 81% landfill is an improvement on 91% in 2001! The growth and better management of recycling can account for the reduction.

The EU Directive on Landfill stipulates that waste should be disposed of in an environmentally friendly way. In countries like Germany and Holland, waste is turned into energy, though this is not the situation in Greece. There is public opposition to waste -to- energy plants. People don’t want waste sites that blight the view from their homes and they fear that the presence of the plants will negatively impact upon tourism, which is where most of the resident’s income comes from.     

Responsible venting of methane     

The Mediterranean climate results in more methane being produced as waste in landfill sites decomposes more quickly. On the small Greek Islands, methane is vented and released into the atmosphere in a controlled way. Larger landfill sites burn off the methane and this process is also a possible way of using the waste and gases to produce energy.  


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Recycling in Greece    

There are collection points in the major towns for glass, paper, cardboard and plastic. The waste is collected and delivered to a facility to be sorted. Recycling rates in rural areas are quite poor due to insufficient infrastructure and a lack of education around recycling.  

Progress with packaging

One area of waste management and disposal that is showing signs of improvement is how the country deals with packaging waste. The Hellenic Recovery Recycling Corporation (HERRCO) has developed a management system for the disposal of packaging. Almost 1500 businesses that use packaging in their activities have signed up to the scheme which involves them taking responsibility for the collection and recycling of the packaging they use. Companies who actively recycle receive financial incentives. To date, 12.6 billion items of packaging have been collected and recycled. The HERRCO scheme coordinates recycling across a few key areas; providing residents with blue bins for recycling, recycling commercial packaging waste and the collection and recycling of packaging from large sites such as hotels and entertainment venues.

Mayor says Yes, or no   

The mayor of any given municipality in Greece is a very influential figure and can influence the success or failure of recycling initiatives that are introduced. If the initiative has the mayor’s backing, it can be successful, though if it doesn’t, environmental efforts are left for volunteers to coordinate.   

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Financial adversity

Of course, Greece has had massive financial problems recently, and this has had an impact on the implantation of some of its waste disposal schemes. Problems which have been encountered include some companies being unable to contribute as much to the recycling scheme, as waste management systems cost money, and a rise in the theft of metals such as aluminium and electronic waste from recycling points, as people sell them for scrap to make money.