I’ve been to Greece more than a dozen times during the last 15 years and I’m full of admiration for the beautiful landscape and the great people there. Relaxed living is the Greek way. Healthy and tasty cuisine and a wonderful scenery.
However, the Greeks obviously lack of environmental awareness. Just remember the devastating forest fires which caused widespread destruction last summer and killed more than 80 people. These fires could have been put in part deliberately to get around Greek law that forbids property development on areas designated as forest land. Another spot where many of these fires could have sparked are the numerous illegal landfills. Both, illegal trash burning and methane explosions caused the fires to break out. Greece faces a serious garbage problem as landfills are cram-full and recycling appears to be unfamiliar to Greek authorities. Experts expect that there are between 800 and 3,000 makeshift landfills on the countryside and even more illegal dumps. Driving along the Greek countryside, you’ll soon see garbage bags dumped along the wayside and it seems as if nobody cared about that. However, when I was in Greece in 2004, I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. There were community employees collecting the trash along the wayside in the heat. But soon I understood. It was just a few days for the 2004 Athens Olympic Games to begin. And as all around Greece, authorities were doing their best to amp up their region.
This year, there are again officials closing down makeshift dumps and pressing ahead with the construction of new landfills and recycling plants. This time, however, it’s not for the tourists’ sake but it’s the European Commission which prompted Greek authorities to act. If they should fail to close down all illegal landfills by the end of the year, Greece will fail hefty fines.
But it’s just not feasible to solve Greek’s trash crisis within a few months. The situation today is the result of short-sighted policy and the current government is far from turning the situation around. Greece recycles just 13% of its total waste which is pretty little compared with the European average of 41%.