Attica waste management on the brink of critical

Waste management in Attica is facing a watershed moment as growing debts to the two private firms running the Fylis landfill, northwest of Athens, which receives the bulk of the capital’s trash, means that the operators could soon withdraw from the site, a conference was told on Thursday.

The news came as cash-strapped Greece received a fresh warning from the European Commission to shut down more than 60 illegal rubbish dumps operating across the country or face fresh sanctions.

Speaking at the first international conference on sustainable solid waste treatment in Athens, Attica Governor Yiannis Sgouros said that regional municipalities have not been paying their contributions to the designated agency, which has already amassed a debt of 83 million euros.

“The association has not collected a single euro from the municipalities in 2012. The situation is tragic -- mayors cannot contribute funds for waste treatment because they are facing financial problems,” Sgouros told the conference, adding that the monthly cost of running the waste treatment plant, the incinerator and the burial of trash is 2 million euros.

“If the companies go, which could happen at any moment, the rubbish will be simply left on the streets,” he said.

There is no indication whether the two firms are considering terminating the deal to run the site.

In a related development, Julio Garcia Burgues of the EU’s environment directorate yesterday slammed Greece’s poor performance in sustainable waste treatment while warning of renewed sanctions if the government fails to comply with European regulations -- most crucially the bloc’s most recent waste framework directive.

“With 82 percent of rubbish ending up in landfills, only Bulgaria and Romania have a worse record [than Greece],” said Burgues, stressing that despite some progress, 63 illegal dumps are still operating in the country.

“There is a serious chance that Greece will be fined by the European Court,” said the Brussels official, warning that given the state’s debt problem, a fine would have to be passed on to municipalities and residents. 

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