Waste management in Greece

IndustrySouth-East European INDUSTRIAL Мarket - issue 4/2016

Waste management in Greece is regulated by all the standards of the European community and all kinds of waste - hazardous and non-hazardous (municpal, indstrial, hospital, etc.) - is being treated properly, in accordance with the technical enactments of the European Union for treatment of specific types of waste.

The country has developed the proposed strategies throughout time and also has invested in making specific laws for waste management that are necessary for the adjustment of Greece to its European partners regarding matters of waste management. Waste management in Greece and the whole European community aims at eco-friendly procedures and maximum reuse of waste materials. The methods for waste management in Greece reflect this modern tendency.

Management of non-hazardous waste
Solid waste in Greece has increased significantly since 2006, a report published by the United Nations (UN) states. Municipal waste records rise from 3075 kt to 5002 kt for a very short time. A major part of the increased waste is putrescibles, paper and plastic. The systems for treatment of solid waste in Greece include mainly landfills but there are other ways for treatment as well. Some of the landfills are in the process of closing; however there are many fully engineered sanitary landfills that are in operation throughout the country.

Some of the existing ones are said to be under reconstruction to meet European standards. The main contributor to solid waste in Greece is not the average population of the country, which is seen to be decreasing, but the industry, construction, and agriculture sectors. Due to seasonal factors like tourism, solid waste in Greece usually increases in some municipalities.

Solid waste packaging waste, which includes glass, metals, paper, fibreboard and other packaging materials, is managed by collection and recycling. Between 1997 and 2007 Greece exceeded the EU’s target to recycle 25% of its packaging waste.

The recycling of Waste Electric and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) has been increasing, and Greece now has a very good practice of recycling old automobiles, as per EU requirements. In 2007, the country exceeded EU’s target for recycling at least 80% of old automobiles, in accordance with the End of Life Vehicles Directive (ELVD).

Management of non-hazardous waste is regulated by the National Plan for the Management of Non-Hazardous Waste that has been enacted in 2003 with a joint ministerial decision. This plan has been developed in accordance with European requirements for management of non-hazardous waste and is also adapted to each of the 13 regions of the country, which have their own regional plans for management of non-hazardous waste. The leaders of those regions are responsible for the management of waste.

For example, reduction of the biodegradable fraction of municipal waste disposed in landfills is mainly achieved by the adoption of two programmes at a regional level: recycling of packaging wastes via the programmes of "sorting at source" (which is facilitated by a network of mechanical separation and recycling) and recovering of domestic waste at the two national units of mechanical recycling and composting. These programmes work at a municipal level.

Prevention, minimization and environmentally sound management of solid non-hazardous waste and sewage, in the context of integrated planning and sustainable management of land resources, is the key goal of the "National Plan for the Management of Non-Hazardous Waste" of Greece.

More concretely, this plans aims at reducing the quantity of waste and also utilizing it again by providing more opportunities for recycling and forming into usable material. Along with a developed network of recycling sites, the plan aims at promoting the use of easily dismantled products, the recycling of which would not cost a lot.

In terms of recycling non-hazardous waste Greece has targets adjusted to European standards. These targets vary with time, but in general Greece has been able to meet most of them. Some of the targets include those set for the reduction of biodegradable waste, reuse of ELVs and tires, collection of WEE and batteries, and recycling of waste materials, produced by the sector of construction. 

The targets set for reduction of biodegradable waste disposed at landfills are 75%, 50% and 35% for the years 2010, 2013 and 2020 respectively - in comparison to their production volumes in 1995. In terms of packaging targets for 2011, the following goals were set: between 55% and 80% by weight of packaging to be recycled, and 60% as a minimum by weight of packaging waste to be recovered or incinerated at waste incineration plants with energy recovery.

A Ministerial Decision has targeted the reuse of ELVs with the following requirements: Greece had to ensure that at least 85% of end-of-life vehicles were reused or recovered and at least 80% were reused or recycled. These standards have raised higher during last year and the requirements for the reuse of ELV’s have been set for at least 95% of the collected ELV’s to be reused or recovered and 85% of the ELV’s to be reused or recycled. In terms of management of wasted tires Greece has set a goal of 65% reuse rate and 10% recycle rate of collected tires for 2006.

Regarding WEEE, the annual collection target has been 65% of the Electrical and Electronic Equipment (EEE) to be placed on the market again. Recovery targets by the end of 2011 have demanded that 85% of controlling equipment and large equipment should be designated for recovery, while the requirement for monitors and screens recovery has been 80% of the collected waste materials. Small and lighting equipment have been targeted for a 75% recovery. By 2020 recycling and reuse of waste products produced by companies working in the construction sector is set to cover at least 70% of the collected waste.

Management of hazardous waste
Management of hazardous waste is of three general types - recycling, export and incineration, the latter gaining more and more popularity in Greece. There are also other ways for waste management, and some of which are very effective because they provide energy recovery.

According to an analysis of the Greek "National Plan for the Management of Hazardous Waste", published by the UN, around 330,000 tonnes of hazardous waste have been generated annually in Greece, mainly by industry, healthcare facilities and transport activities. This tendency is more or less stable today.

Overall, 42% of total hazardous waste production is calculated to be oil and liquid fuel waste (which is almost all recovered); 14,5% consists of end-of-life and out-off-specification products. Another part of hazardous waste, 13,4%, is   waste   from   thermal   processes (mainly steel  and aluminum). Statistics of Greece’s National Centre of Environment and Sustainable Development (NCESD) show that in 2006 the total amount of hazardous waste has been 333,155 tones, from which 118,870 tones have been recycled, around 2793 tones have been burnt, around 14,763 tones have been deposed at landfills and 7346 tones have been designated for energy recovery. The rest of the hazardous waste has been treated in other, alternative ways.

Today the Ministry of Environment, Energy and Climate Change (YPEKA) in Greece keeps record of all the hazardous waste that is collected, transported, treated, utilized and disposed in Greece annually. This helps the successful management of hazardous waste coming from pharmaceutical companies and hospitals, industrial companies and business buildings.

Small and medium sized enterprises usually give license to professionals to transport and treat the waste they produce. The "National Plan for the Management of Hazardous Waste" estimates that of the 330,000 tonnes of hazardous waste, which is produced each year, 62% is sent for disposal and the rest is designated for recovery.

Prevention of illegal treatment of hazardous waste is driven by the UN Basel Convention and EU Regulation 1013/2006, along with the work of control organs of Greece.

Alternative management of waste products
Greece has a well-developed system of alternative management of waste products, which is founded on and improved in accordance with the standards of the European community. There are 11 collective systems for alternative management of waste products and one individual system for alternative management of waste products.

Packaging waste products are managed by alternative companies, such as Hellenic Recovery-Recycling Corporation (HERRCo), which was founded in 2001 by industrial and commercial enterprises that supply packaged products to the Greek market or manufacture different packaging items. The foundation of this corporation is in accordance with the European principle of corporate responsibility. Another site for recycling packaging waste products is the agency Rewarding Recycling.

This agency has recycling centres around the country in municipalities, supermarkets, at schools and in other consumption intensive places. Rewarding Recycling provides environmental education at schools and places emphasis on the need of recycling waste products.

AFIS is the only certified alternative system for management of batteries by now. Alternative management of accumulators is performed by Sydesys, which is certified by high-demanding European tests and Sedis-K, which operates in Crete. Eltepe is the only cooperation which is certified for managing waste products from oils.

Eco-Elastica manages used car tires. AMVH is a certified cooperation group that holds the management of ELV products (End-of-Life Vehicles). WEEE is managed by two collective systems for alternative WEEE management - Recycling of appliances S.A and Fotokiklosi S.A, which specializes in managing waste from lighting industry.

Public Private Partnership in waste management
Public Private Partnership in waste management in Greece is an innovative and successful initiative that is a result of the cooperation of YPEKA, the Ministry of Regional Development and the Ministry of Interior. The collaborative project aims at building an integrated scheme for the management of waste in the region of Western Macedonia.

The project amounts to EUR 116,4 million and its main parts include the installation of automated machines for mechanical sorting and recycling, installation of equipment for biological treatment for the sanitary landfill of waste residues, construction of a new waste transport point and other activities.

The building of the installations is made with the financial support of private investors, and the contractor is supposed to undertake the funding, design, construction, maintenance and operation of the overall system for 27 years.

A project for sustainable waste management powered by the public and private sectors of Greece aims at eco-friendly waste management solutions as a whole, and generating energy from the utilization of municipal solid waste in particular. Some of the immediately evident results of the project are the reduction of landfill waste and the adequate treatment of biodegradable projects.

Education for Sustainable Development
One of the crucial drivers of successful waste management is educating people about the necessity of good practices in waste management, which Greece does at a national level. Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) is the Greek strategy of raising awareness of the necessity of citizens of the country to be aware of recycling values and reuse of waste materials.

Education for Sustainable Development in Greece was adopted with the ESD strategy of UNESCO and organized a National Committee to work on the issues of ESD in the country. The Committee involves all ministries and environmental NGOs interested in waste management. Its mission is to coordinate ESD activities and to prepare a law on ESD.

The Department of Health and Environmental Education within the Ministry of Education, Lifelong Learning and Religious Affairs (YPEPTH) is the institution that elaborates on strategies for environmental education and rising of awareness of the necessity for successful waste management in primary and secondary schools. The Department of Health and Environmental Education also supervises coordinators of Environmental Education that work in each of the school districts of the country.

Since 2004 the Ministry of Education, Lifelong Learning and Religious Affairs has given specific training programs to more than 20,000 educators. Along with that 40,000 educational programs have been completed in primary and secondary schools. They have touched on important topics concerning the environment such as waste reduction, integrated management and recycling.

Schools in Greece have participated in more than 30 national thematic networks that focus on sustainable waste management. One of them (completed in 2010) was organized by the Ministry of Education, Lifelong Learning and Religious Affairs and the Ministry of Environment, Energy and Climate Change (YPEKA) and included students from both primary and secondary schools. The event was a contest entitled "Recycling with Art" and required students to make pictures with entirely recycled materials. The central  message of the event was "do not waste, do not throw away, save and use".

The education of Greek youths takes place not only at a national level but also at an international level as well. 50 schools have been recorded to participate in ESD activities within international networks sponsored by UNESCO. For the purpose of raising awareness of the necessary successful waste management, various information and communication  technology instruments have been increasingly used in Greece. They have successfully supported environmental education. Some web forums hosted on the YPEPTH website have been proved as an easy and effective way for supporting the EDS of Greece.

Operational Programme "Environment and Sustainable Development"
The National Operational Programme "Environment and Sustainable Development" (OPESD) is a programme of crucial importance for the successful waste management in Greece. It is co-founded and sponsored by the European Union and has been responsible for the completion of many studies on the issues that Greece had to meet and deal with regarding waste management and safe environment as a whole.

The Greek Ministry of Environment, Energy and Climate Change coordinates the programme, however at least 80% of the finances needed for the completion of the projects and implementation of researchers’ suggestions come from the EU Structural and Cohesion Funds. The rest of the funds come from the national budget.

OPESD focuses on environmental aspects such as integrated solid waste management, decent use of water resources, wastewater facilities, preservation of natural resources and efficient tackling of environmental risks such as desertification, droughts, fires, floods, and marine pollution, the national report states.

OPESD contributes to the economic growth of Greece as a whole because it reveals ways for more efficient use of resources, such as reuse, recycling and recovery of waste. Moreover, it sponsors their implementation in Greece.