Mar 21, 2018 | Updated: 09:54 AM EDT

Greece Eyes Improved Recycling After Being Fined By European Union

Apr 12, 2017 02:41 AM EDT

Greece is bent on pushing for improved ecological awareness among its citizens through recycling as part of its compliance with the European Union's (EU) waste management policies. EU's Waste Framework Directive requires councils to separately collect different types of waste. This aims to help the councils meet the target of recycling up to 50 percent of household waste by 2020. The directive is just one of the many environmental legislations under EU's 7th Environment Action Programme 2020.

Greek authorities have failed to truly promote recycling and eco-awareness in the past two decades. The country has fallen behind EU's recycling requirements, with only 16 percent compliance among households nationwide, according to Phys.Org. In Athens alone, with a population of four million, only has a 13 percent recycling compliance rate. Europe has an average recycling compliance rate of 28 percent, with Slovenia at the lead with a 49 percent recycling compliance rate.

Greenpeace in Greece Spokesman Dimitris Ibrahim said the country does not have a clear strategy or even political will to implement the recycling strategy. Greece had 70 dumps in 2014 and most of these are even run by municipal authorities. A makeshift dump in Andros Island had so many garbage it collapsed in 2011.

The European Court of Justice (ECJ) has penalized Greece repeatedly because of its failure to comply with the recycling policies, according to BBC. In 2014, the country was once again penalized and ordered to pay million of Euros every six months due to the continued existence of illegal landfills. The operation of dumps and landfills continued despite the existence of a robust tourism industry that requires a sustainable environment.

"The mentality needs to change, and urgently," Ecological Recycling Society Association Head Antigone Dalamaga said. "It takes incentives and counter-incentives... you need to convince your citizens of the necessity and of the positive effect of recycling."

A 2010 report shows that 80 percent of households wastes in Greece end up in landfill sites. Worse, the ECJ said the Greek government has failed to improve its waste management implementation despite several deadlines and this has posed a risk not only to the environment but also to human health. Despite the continued warnings and the fines, Greece does not even impose fines on its citizens for dumping waste.

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