Massive Greek dioxin emissions reported

Greenpeace claims uncontrolled waste burning releasing more dioxins than the whole of France

Uncontrolled burning of waste in Greece could be releasing more dioxins by itself than all sources of emissions in France, which has a population six times greater, Greenpeace's Greek office claimed today. The group estimates that fires at some 5,000 unregulated landfills combined with individual citizens burning their own rubbish are releasing up to 920 grams of dioxin per year.

The claim follows close on the heels of a historic fine awarded against Greece for failing to comply with a European Court of Justice ruling demanding implementation of EU waste laws at an illegal dump on the island of Crete (ENDS Daily 4 July). Greenpeace Greece director Stelios Psomas told ENDS Daily that uncontrolled fires which have burned regularly at the site since the 1980s are "typical" of other dumps in Greece.

There are no municipal waste incinerators in Greece. The country's environment ministry estimates that about 15% of all such waste is nevertheless burned, either by individuals or by local government-operated landfills or through accidental fires at waste dumps. On some of Greece's many islands, up to 80% of waste is burned, Greenpeace says.

The group's dioxin emissions estimate is based on government data on Greek waste management plus scientific investigations in several European countries and the US into how much dioxin is released when household waste is burned without environmental controls.

Greenpeace today called on the government to set a timetable for the closure of all illegal dump sites in a bid to prevent uncontrolled waste burning. It also wants an immediate ban on PVC bottles, which it says contribute disproportionately to dioxin emissions when waste is burned. It urged the government to use a provision in Greece's 1986 environment law allowing any packaging material to be prohibited if it presents serious waste management problems.

Follow Up:
Greenpeace Greece, tel: +30 1 384 0774; Greek environment ministry, tel: +30 1 642 2392.

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