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Wednesday, April 12, 2006 

What 8 Days of Garbage Looks Like

The woman in the busboard behind the bins expresses a look
most Athenians have right now about the 8-day garbage strike.
The smell is unbelievable.
I don't know how the residents near the trash bins can handle it.
By tomorrow, I expect the car parked behind the bin will be buried in trash
if the owner doesn't park it elsewhere.

This is one of the 'tidier' piles of trash in my neighbourhood.
I've paid my municipal taxes, I shouldn't have to put up with this public hygiene nightmare.
I'm just waiting for the rats to show up like they did a few garbage strikes ago.

UPDATE: The strike has ended and as I type, the garbage men are collecting garbage off my street. The strikers' demands weren't met so I guess we'll be having another strike in a couple of months. But for now, the garbage men will be collecting overtime pay to clear the streets of garbage in the next three days in time for Easter.

It is the same here in Thessaloniki. I hate it. I had been going on regular walks but I hate strolling around the city with all that damn trash laying about.

While I don't think garbage operators should put up with just anything - I don't know enough about the current strike to be on their side. I mean, the job is pretty clear cut, you pick up garbage. It sucks. If the government is really screwing them in some way they should rectify it, if not, they are just making their jobs that much harder when they come back to work.

Garbage strikes happen. As does the frequent shutting down of the one and only (!) garbage dump for the ENTIRE prefecture of Attica located at Ano Liosa. I'm all for the rights of the refuse collectors and the Ano Liosa dumpland (which btw I live nearby) has over-reached its potential and MUST be shut down.

What I DON'T understand is why people insist on taking out their garbage when the public bins are full? WHY can't they keep their garbage bags on their balconies? Everyone has a balcony in Athens, no matter how small. Keep the little bags in big heftier durable bags so the smell won't cause problems to neighbours. WHY don't people TRY to diminish the AMOUNT of litter? (Yes, people, you can recycle the cereal and humongous cardboard detergent boxes. And if you're not into recycling, why do you throw it on top of the unstable heap without even "crunching" it down?)
People think that by throwing out their garbage when the bins are full that they have "clean" houses? WRONG. It is a smorgasbord for rats, cockroaches and other disease carrying pests RIGHT OUTSIDE your home! Never mind how the passing cars squish the bags to a pulp and the aroma of baby diapers combined with someone's toilet bin contents and dinner left-overs make passers-by place a hand quickly over their mouths...
People can complain about the garbage collectors' rights and people can complain about "how they closed the dump again"... but what are WE - the citizens- doing to help things NOT get out of hand? A little common sense goes a LONG way.

I also think that when garbage collectors strike and/or the dump closes, people should take a REALLY good look at how much garbage they actually produce. Maybe it's time for a change, consumers!

P.S. I have about 5 large garbage bags sitting on my balcony.

I agree very much with the view that it is everyone who is contributing to this mess. If the bins are full, the people who dump more garbage bags on the street are more disgusting from the people who strike.

Imagine if there was a camera stationed on the street lamp above every garbage bin and photographed the people who dumped bags on the overflown bins in a situation like this (strike). And the photos were published on a daily paper (or a selection at least). Under the banner 'The Disgustingtons'. Would then people think twice about it?

But then again, how do you photograph the idiots that throw their garbage bags from the fifth floor balcony to the bin on the street?


I totally agree with flubberwinkle. I believe that the majority of Greeks think the way they do because they don't care what happens beyond their front door - ie. their apt. door and not the building's door btw. It's the same mentality that goes into parking their car where it's convenient for them without any regard to handicapped, mothers with carriages, elderly, etc. I've lived in Greece for over 5 years and started recycling paper for the past few months because I felt sick with myself for breaking the habit upon my move. I too have kept my garbage on the balcony as long as this strike has lasted. I'm tired of trying to fit in and thinking what I'm doing is 'strange' or 'won't work in Greece' (αυτα δεν παιρνανε στην Ελλαδα). Enough with 'when in Rome do as the Romans do'... Congrats to the rest of us.

We have to get used to it. Athens is a pressure cooker of a city and resembles an anthill. Overcrowding is intolerable and instead of population reduction, we seem to be growing uncontrollably in more able bodies and cars fitting in a less and restricted space perimeter.
We are living cheek by jowl, and it is unhealthy.
There should be a heavy city of Athens tax levied on anyone, anyone trying to make a new start in Athens. The tax will deter newcomers of all shapes and sizes to add to the overcrowding and the contamination by people pollution.

In the meantime, grin and bear it ,since the authorities are incapable of dealing with this situation.

I do agree with garbage men asking for hazard pay for the job they do but I really am sick and tired of having to deal with garbage strikes on top of all the other strikes which seem to run back-to-back in Athens. I kept garbage on my balcony for the first days of the strike but the smell was unbearable. I keep it as long as I can (usually about 3 days) but then I've got to throw it out. I should think if it's a matter of public health to have garbage on the streets then it must be twice as bad to have it on your balcony???

I resent the fact that I even have to deal with this mess time and time again. Am I the ONLY person in Greece who is working and has never been on strike in 8 years? I must be. I am angry that I have to continually pay increased taxes every year and have to suffer the dozens of strikes because the government chooses to blow 13-14 billion€ on the Olympic Fiasco instead of giving garbage men, doctors and teachers decent salaries and better working conditions.

As far as I'm concerned, the government should bring in the military to deal with it like they did during the transit strikes until they find a solution to both the horrendous overflow at the garbage dumps and refuse collectors salaries.

I'm sorry but the ball is in the government's court...not my balcony.

Out of curiosity, why do you consider doctors and teachers to be low paid in Greece? Doctors have always been upper-middle class (salary-wise at least) in Greece and teachers have a much better salary than most private company employees in Greece with the same or even more skills.
I know it is not really relevant to ths thread, but what the heck! Unless you are talking about young university graduate doctors and their difficulties in finding work, but it is the same with any other jobs in Greece, plus it would not be like that now if parents in the last three decades were not so obsessed about their 'kanakari' being a doctor/lawyer/politician/hybrid-of-the-above!


I don't agree with complaining the people who take out their trash.

Those people have paid their taxes for this service and therefore do not need rotting trash sat on their balcony to attract only God knows what.

'The Disgustings' are the ones who pay the trash collectors wages.

I totally agree that the army should be brought in to deal with this problem while the trash collectors are on strike.

After all, who will take responsibility when someone gets sick from this deliberate public health hazard.

I think this stinks (literally) and it'll only be worse next time they strike which will be of course in the summer when the trash is sat out in 35oC heat! Remember last year! Urgh!

Kostas...One of the BIGGEST excuses doctors have for demanding and taking bribes is their salaries. But that's not the reason I want them to get paid more. I've been to the public hospitals. I've seen the conditions they work in and it's not good. They are understaffed so I don't really have a problem when doctors demand better working conditions and they should at least be getting pay raises on par with the cost of living increases.
As for teachers, they don't get paid a lot. I could be wrong here, but from what the teachers I personally know have told me...they get paid about 1300€ a month and their student to teacher ratio is steadily increasing. My son has 27 students in his class. But I digress. This blog wasn't about the state of doctor's and teacher's salaries. It's about the garbage overflowing into the streets with no apparent end in site with the strike being extended for another 24 hours tomorrow.

Ellas...I'm glad there's someone else out there who feels like I do about keeping garbage on the balconies. And last year it was impossible to do it even for a day even if we wanted to. The searing August heat just made matters that much worse. 9 months later and we're dealing with the same mess again--------------.

Keeping garbage on the balcony is perhaps only viable for two or three days, but not for a week and a half. Especially if it rains, then you have wet garbage on your balcony that would drip through the house if/when you finally carry it downstairs. We have neighbors who habitually keep their garbage on their balcony anyway, and god, the stink is awful. It is definitely a damned if you do, damned if you don't situation. For now, however, I am keeping any food refuse in the fridge until we just can't hold it anymore. It isn't a great option, but there are just two of us so it is bearable, and since that is the brunt of our trash, well there you go.

And I really don't think many Greeks care about "filthiness" outside of their own apartment door. The hallways and entrance hall of our building is always littered with menus, mail, and a variety of crap. The street and sidewalks are often littered with wrappers, cigarettes, and dog/cat poop. Noone cares about the "outside" world as long as their living room is clean.

Now, the garbage strike situation is totally different from the Ano Liosa situation, which I agree needs to be dealt with, and why it hasn't after all this damn time is mind boggling. For a HUGE municipality like that, there needs to be plenty of options, not just one. But then again, I always maintain that someone did a piss poor job of city planning when it came to Athens.

Just to make it clear, I do not dissagree with any of you that this mess is the government's fault and they are the ones who need to sort it out. The army should have been mobilised (a lot earlier).
What I am saying, is that we all have responsibilities. Forget the garbage bags on the balcony issue. What about people actually demanding something to be done about the whole thing, say after the mess is temporarily sorted out in the next few days. How many people complain, team up and actually try to do something? My opinion stems more out of frustration rather than any sort of big idea. It would just be great if all of us were more active in our respective communities.

Mel...I really don't think many Greeks care about "filthiness" outside of their own apartment door.
You're right, many of them don't. Outside is always someone else's problem. For example, a couple of months ago, I was walking my dog and before I even had time to clean up after her, a woman started yelling at me for contributing to the dirty street...for every other dog owner who never cleaned up after the dogs. Of course, I had already cleaned up but she never noticed. Once she was done with her tirade, she took her bucket full of Chlorox and dumped it on top of the flowers in the little flower box on the sidewalk. They don't even realize how they, themselves, contribute to the mess around them.
And again you are right when you say that they did a 'piss poor' job of city planning in Athens. So many times I've been told that Athens is the way it is because it suffered a quick population explosion in the 50s and 60s. I used to buy that line until I realized that every single city in Greece looks exactly the same...smaller versions of Athens.

Kostas...I totally agree with you that we ought to raise our voices and actually DO something. How many times I've told my husband that the citizens of Greece need to go on strike to protest unfair living conditions. We all should be writing to newspapers and our MPs. Complaining without action becomes tiresome and is totally ineffective.

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