ATHENS – More than half of what’s put into Greece in recycling bins on the streets in some cases is rubbish and has to be sorted out with many people preferring to throw their garbage into the ubiquitous blue bins instead of adjacent dumpsters.
Overall, more than 40 percent of the waste placed in blue dumpsters designated for recyclable materials is estimated to end up in the country’s landfills, according to 2016 data seen by Kathimerini.
Of the 365,285 tons of trash that reached 33 of Greece’s 39 waste sorting centers (there is no available data on the other six), 142,340 tons, or 39 percent, was non-recyclable and had to be redirected and deposited at one of the country’s landfill sites.
Data showed that 47 percent of the waste that arrived at Greece’s largest collection center for recyclable materials (KDAY) in Koropi, eastern Attica, ended up at a landfill, the paper said.
At Greece’s second-biggest KDAY, in the western Aspropyrgos district, it was 54 percent. The data suggests a lack of public awareness, or plain indifference, experts say, about the type of rubbish that must be disposed in blue dumpsters.
Greece’s recycling rate is 17 percent, below the European Union average of 39 percent.
only about 15-16.5 percent of Greeks recycle, the Ecological Recycling Society (ECOREC) has estimated.
But EROREC chief Filippos Kirkitsos said they return as much as 40-45 percent in reusable products, not too far below the European Union 2020 goal of 50 percent.
In a country where unlawful landfills have been allowed to operate for years, there’s little incentive and even less education for recycling.
That’s something ECOREC has been trying to change, along with environmental groups such as WWF Hellas and others who want to raise awareness of the need to reduce, reuse and recycle, and not bury products that can be used repeatedly.
“Recycling in Greece has remained stagnant over the last five years,” Kirkitsos told TNH. “We have proposed as an NGO a comprehensive policy with many measures at many levels, which should be implemented in order to significantly increase recycling and composting in Greece and to achieve European targets,” he said.
Curiously, he said only about 6.5 percent of recycling is done with the blue bins with non-official recycling making up the bulk. And the blue bins aren’t always used for recyclables though as people either too lazy or callous to care leave garbage in them or next to them, unwilling to put it in the adjacent rubbish bin.
He said as much as 30-40 percent of what’s inside the blue bins is rubbish and not recyclables even though acceptable goods are clearly shown in graphics. “These unwanted materials return to the landfills. In a few cases, blue bins can actually go to landfills. The municipalities are responsible for this mismanagement,” he said.
In Athens, with nearly four million inhabitants out of the country’s 11 million, only 13 percent of eligible waste is recycled, town hall figures show.
“We don’t have a clear strategy and then we don’t have a political will to materialize this strategy,” said Dimitris Ibrahim, a spokesman for the Greek branch of Greenpeace, the site Phys.org reported.
A European Commission report on waste management in the country said that, “Greece needs to make significant efforts to improve … performance … with a view to meeting the current EU waste targets and … increase separate collection and recycling,” but it’s been left mostly to NGO’s to do the work and educational outreach.