Recycling in Greece, Italy and Senegalhousehold waste

Almost one-fifth of the entire waste produced by this country is plastic, and yet just 1% of it is recycled. Greece, is at least 15 years behind the rest of the EU in almost all areas of recycling and is unlikely to meet EU targets for next year.

In Athens the recycling bins so common in most European cities are a rare sight. Although recently the authorities have launched new schemes, the impact so far seems to be minimal.

Recycling just is not high on the list of priorities for the average Athenian.

Most bags of household waste contain large amounts of glass, metal, paper and plastic which end up being dumped at the city’s only landfill which – not surprisingly – is now almost full.

As a result, the capital currently faces an acute waste management crisis because no alternative sites have been set up.

Ironically the city does have what is believed to be Europe’s largest recycling plant, built next to the landfill four years ago. But the plant – estimated to have cost at least 75m euros (£50m) – has stood idle.

The reason? It was badly damaged by a mountain of rubbish which collapsed on top of it.

In Italy waste disposal regulations vary from district to district. In Rome, the rules are amongst the toughest anywhere in Italy. People who do not separate their rubbish can be fined up to 619 euros if they have a recycling bin within 500 metres of their front door.

Romans often claim that it is hard to find a bin and even harder to find one that is not full. The city council has ordered 2,500 new bins. They are colour-coded green for household waste, white for paper and blue for plastic.

The streets of the historic centre of Rome have almost no recycling bins yet. The streets are cleaned very efficiently, by vehicles that drive over waste and suck it up like enormous self-propelled vacuum cleaners.

In southern Italy local politicians claim that the waste management industry is controlled by organised crime. In 2014 the European Commission said it was taking action against Italy, for 28 breaches of EU laws on the environment. It said that Italy was denying its citizens the same quality of life enjoyed by people in other EU countries.

In contrast in Senegal recycling is not done on an industrial scale, but it is part of daily life for many resourceful Senegalese.

Everything is recycled, from plastic bags to school exercise books, food cans, bottles of mineral water and even fruit peel. The peel is said to be collected for use in cheap perfume.

Tomato tins become drinking cups in rural areas or are used by beggars in the streets, old newspapers and administrative documents are used to wrap bread, fruit or peanuts you buy in the street.

Some artisans also use metal waste to produce anything from chairs to kitchen utensils and children’s toys.

Plastic bags are used to make shoes. In the old days, worn tyres used to be made into sandals, but these are much less popular now.

Recently, some smart people have started collecting all the metal waste they can find to send it back to factories in Europe.

The Swiss waste disposal firm Alcyon has signed a contract with the government worth more than $9m to collect and treat rubbish in the capital Dakar. The project is being managed by AMA-Senegal, which will remove a huge tip called Mbeubeuss and recycle much of the city’s waste.

Recycling is really important, our planet is already ‘sick’ and if we do not recycle, the problems of human civilization will get worse and worse.

Recycling is important to both the natural environment and us humans alike.

Time is really running short for us as a world community, it is the responsibility as everyone as individuals and corporates to recycle any waste that they produce.

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