Happy 2009 to all droplets that read this blog

Happy New Year to everyone – I would like to share a text in order to celebrate the 2009 arrival.

The following is an effort to “translate” in English an excellent text written by the Greek writer Mirto Georgiou – Nielsen who has wrote the beautiful book “The art to be parent” (ISBN: 9789600333923). The text below is an excerpt from that book.

“ …If life is a chain formulated by all human beings that have lived on Earth, we should imagine every new generation as a link that is added to the infinite track of links that already do exist… Every generation is a new link: first our parents, then we ourselves, after our children and later on our grandchildren. Every new link (we hope to be) more strong, more functional and we wish to be more beautiful.

If life on this Earth is an ocean, every new generation is like one of those infinite waves that are coming from the roots of time, one after another, to crash onto the coastlines. Every new generation is just one more wave, consisted of all living human beings and everyone is just a small droplet within the wave.
Some droplets bring a shingle from the sea bed, some other droplets may bring a shell to put it on the beach and make it more beautiful and some bring nothing.

One shingle, as an example, was left by Socrates, another shell from Shakespeare, a third one by Beethoven or Confucius and it goes on forever. And all those shingles and shells together formulate the current view of our common beach.

Most people in contrast, after having their own route within the wave, they arrive almost empty at the beach, they shine for a while under the sun and then sink in the sand.

The wave before them just yawned their way and their wave in turn just yawns the way for the next wave - generation. First ourselves, the parents, then the children and afterwards the children of our children…

Every new wave is a new generation, braver, more dynamic and hopefully wiser from the previous one…”

Happy 2009 to everybody

Derek Greedy comments on George's post for climate change

It really is good to see that you have some realists contributing to your Blog.

Yes maybe we do or maybe we don't have a climate change agenda that needs to be addressed but to address that does come at a cost. So should we as is being required by the EU and the member states borrow money from the banks that either don't have any or are reluctant to lend us money and then find that we don't have the resources to pay it back.

Me (cynic) of simple mind just sees this as creating further financial turmoil over what has yet to be conclusively proven to be a problem. Clearly the deeper we go into financial crisis the greater the chance that we won't be able to achieve carbon reductions in any event so just let us all hope that someone somewhere can see the reality that we are all faced with and sit back and put their requirements into the context of the real world that we all live in.

Festive greetings to all your readers.


A social - environmental comment by George Sbokos

Sitting in my small Attorneys office a week before Christmas. Cases in postponement due to strike, banks in wooden cover due to rivaling, society in despair due to the lack of democracy. Lack in education, lack in governance, lack in social and environmental aspects. A sudden anger and indignation awake us from our idiot –(“private” in a greek meaning) life. Clients, banks, even my loyal friend, segafredo espresso are steaming hot…

It was the 16th of October in this same old blog as we all expected to find some hope in the upcoming UN summit for the cutting down of the C02 emissions (25 – 40% till 2020). And yet it happened in Poznan of Poland on Saturday the 13th (http://unfccc.int/meetings/cop_14/items/4481.php). Everything declared last time in Bali Indonesia (http://unfccc.int/meetings/cop_13/items/4049.php) is forgotten. The alibi of the 27 of the so called “European Union” decided that, the financial crisis we are facing doesn’t allow at this point any other agreement, than achieving a 20% increase of the clear energy production.

Being about to steam myself, recalling one of the first principles to follow in Aikido martial art: “don’t get angry, the one who does, resigns first”, I thought of Antonis’ blog. It’s not a solution, but it helps and doesn’t even cause any stomach trouble.

I’m questioning myself, where do leaders hide nowadays and how come these world leaders don’t check that they are not even capable to count the costs, they are referring to. I mean, the crisis they are preaching, moralizing their inaction, is not the crisis we are comfronting. The world they think they are living in, is, like N. N. Taleb said about the black swan, different than the world they are living in.

The “cost of inaction” is enormous in front of the “cost of adoption” (reports.eea.europa.eu/technical_report_2007_13/en/Tech_report_13_2007.pdf -).

Not getting angry, still hoping they will recalculate the costs they are referring to, I’m staying sitted in my small Attorneys office a week before Christmas.
Happy holidays. Think of the (r)evolution on Dec. 2009 again.



Greece: youth anger against an empty future and a hostile present!

The facts are already known but the reasoning remains misty, even in Greece. So I feel an obligation to write about the reasoning, just to provide a meaning to what is internationally demonstrated as “Riots in Greece”. I am 100% sure that the discussion about riots in Greece has a global interest and through this I am going to highlight some remarks of more general interest for our world. This is not a typical article for a waste management blog, but we are firstly citizens and then professionals, so allow me to go on.

A first comment about the facts: a “Rambo” type cop killed a 15 years old boy. The impunity of police violence in Greece is deeply at the roots of that murder. In the very center of Athens, a big part of cops are used to behave as they are above any law and control, especially against emigrants. It was just a matter of time to have such an event and in a way it is like the Ancient Greek Tragedies. The killer and the victim could be anyone, randomly chosen by Faith. But the Tragedy remains the same in any randomly selected pair of persons: it is the collapse of the “state” and “the rule of the law” concepts in Greek society.

What comes next? As Helena Smith wrote in Guardian “Within an hour of the boy's death thousands of protesters had gathered in Exarchia's lawless central square screaming, 'cops, pigs, murderers,' and wanting revenge. At first, it is true, the assortment of self-styled anarchists who have long colonized Exarchia piggy-backed on the tragedy, seeing it as the perfect opportunity to live out their nihilistic goals of wreaking havoc. But then middle-class kids - children had got good degrees at universities in Britain but back in Greece were unable to find work in a system that thrives on graft, cronyism and nepotism - joined the protests and very quickly it became glaringly clear that this was their moment, too. Theirs was a frustration not only born of pent-up anger but outrage at the way ministers in the scandal-tainted conservative government have also enriched themselves in their five short years in power.”

And this is exactly the problem. In order to understand what is happening now in Greece we have to use the famous “fire-triangle”. What do we need to have a fire? Ignition, fuel and air (oxygen). The murder was just the ignition. Let’s discuss about fuel and oxygen.

Let’s start with the fuel which is permanently accumulated in our society.

Just few years after the 2004 glamorous and costly Olympic Games, Greece is in an orbit of decadence. For the last 10 years we are just watching ministers to create one scandal after another. Corruption and public money mulcting have become a rule. And it is ridiculous to watch politicians to sentence the pillage that took place during the riots when you know that their own loot with public money and their impunity provide the background for it.

The country has learned to live with bailouts from all around. And what we just do is to pass our debts to the next generations. They are going to have to pay that money back and they have started to understand it.

The current government is swimming in a big pool of scandals for the last 12 months at least. It seems that there is no other plan than to stay on power. The opposition parties do not provide an alternative plan, although they say a lot about certain dimensions of our life. The political discussion, which typically is a major interest for a lot of Greeks seems too boring and with absolutely no interest. There is no long-term plan or vision for our society.

We must have done something very wrong. We have nothing to propose and the result is that we have abstracted from the new generations even their right to disagree with what we propose.

At the same time, our youth is suffering from one of the worst educational systems in Europe and high unemployment rates (70 % among the 18-25s) in a country where joblessness this month jumped to 7.4 per cent. If they can find work remuneration rarely rises above €800 (this is, after all, the self-styled €700 generation), never mind the number of qualifications it took to get the job. Often polyglot PhD holders will be serving tourists at tables in resorts. One in five Greeks lives beneath the poverty line and the future seems so empty in all terms. That was the situation until few months before and the fuel was already there.

But for the last months, new and more flammable materials were added and the new conditions made the fuel more explosive. Middle-class meltdown has started to produce social results that cannot be hidden anymore. The global financial crisis made the situation even worst creating a sense of a no-way out and no hope. The urgency feeling “to do something” has started to upgrade as a mass emotion, even if no one had something concrete to propose.

It is a kind of Crash onto a Wall what we face this period. Nick Fraser explained this very well at Observer. “Aghast, I experienced something of the same sense of recognition after the planes hit the tall buildings, appearing to usher in a new century. But the New Crash (I can't think of another, more suitable term) is both larger and harder to understand. It was possible before October to register the existence of current ills - the already degraded environment, mass murder once again perpetrated for ideological reasons, feckless liberal responses to poverty, wars fought for the dumbest reasons - while remaining at some distance from them. You could hope, somehow, that things wouldn't be as bad as they seemed. … Now something quite significant, and perhaps irreversible, appears to have happened”.

Now let’s speak about the oxygen, the constituent that keeps the fire burning.

First, it is obvious that we are witnesses of a very angry and totally blind mass movement of youth, probably the most independent and spontaneous that had happened ever in Greece. The crisis gets worst, even if the riots will stop for the Christmas, because there is a great democracy gap: no political formation can represent those young people.

Second, the government has a lethal shot from the riots. Up to now it was obvious that we had an incapable government but now it is clear that its incapability has became dangerous too. So the feeling of uncontrollability will keep the fire burning.

Third, the murderer and his advocate have said no word of mercy and no “sorry” for what happened; in fact their statements are quite at the opposite direction – that will provide more reasons to revolt.

Fourth, emigrants do participate in this movement as well because they have suffered a lot from police and they have found a way to cover some of their needs through pillage, although they have not started the riots.

So for me it is obvious that the flames may die down but the coals will simmer.

What can we do about it? Is it a no way out situation?

My opinion is that there are things to do and the first is to cut all the bullshits about “professional anarchists that created the riots” and to understand the deeper social messages carried out from this arousal. The more we stack on the wrong explanation the more the danger we face. By the way the already mentioned wrong explanation provides the best way to get rid of our responsibilities, probably not by luck.

The second is to use the shock that has been in our society as a mean to change direction. To highlight that we cannot afford waiting for the next crisis, which is going to be even worse, unless we do something? To create a new vision for the country, the middle and the working class, a cohesive and hopeful plan for the future that will spot light at the end of the tunnel.

And third, it is obvious that the current political entities are almost clinically dead, even if they are still in life biologically. A new political entity that will arise from their ashes and/ or the transformation of them is more necessary than ever. The constituents for this entity are already here, but the leadership and the glue to join the constituents are missing.

I hope that the current crisis will help to find them.


Pay as you throw scheme: new findings

The following article has been published in "Science for Environmental Policy" a DG Environment News Service. It is written by Mrs. Sauer (sauer@vse.cz).

New research has concluded that 'Pay As You Throw' waste collection schemes can increase levels of recycling among households, but should be accompanied by effective public information campaigns.

Pay As You Throw waste schemes charge households and businesses according to the amount of mixed residual waste they generate. They have been proposed as an effective means of reducing the amount of waste going to landfill, thus helping local authorities meet the requirements of the EU Landfill Directive.

The study, conducted under the EU-funded PAYT (Pay As You Throw) project2, covered 157 local authority areas in the Czech Republic, with a total population of 2.6 million. All authorities were free to choose their method of charging for the collection of general waste in their area. Of these, 92 operated a Pay As You Throw system, and 65 operated a flat fee approach. The level of recycling among the first group was 12.1 per cent. This was almost double that of the second group's recycling rate of 6.9 per cent. The amount of mixed residual waste generated in the Pay As You Throw areas was on average 240 kg per head annually, compared with 260kg in the areas charging a flat fee.

The researchers believe that a fixed flat fee does not encourage households to separate waste or reduce the volume of mixed residual waste. They believe that although Pay As You Throw models incur a higher initial cost to the authority, they encourage a higher level of separation.
The researchers also conducted a survey among householders in Prague, to assess recycling behaviour. 179 households in 17 districts of Prague were surveyed, and of these, 138 households separated their waste. These households also produced significantly less residual waste - 635 litres annually, compared with 712 litres from non-separating households.

Possible factors were identified which influence separating and recycling behaviour. These included technical factors such as conditions in the house for waste separation (e.g. the size of the kitchen), social factors such as the availability of information, and political factors, for example, whether the waste management strategy corresponded with national legislation. The most important factors were found to be technical, namely the availability of regularly emptied containers in the community for placing recycled waste and the ease of recycling in the home. Households were less influenced by the cost of the service, as the price paid for waste treatment is relatively low (1.7 Euros per household member per month), and this fee was often hidden in total rent costs.

The level of awareness of methods for separating waste was also important, as was the degree to which the waste management strategy was perceived to be in line with national legislation. The extent to which recycled waste was used as a secondary raw material was also a strong factor.

This study was conducted as part of the EU PAYT (Pay As You Throw) project, supported by the European Commission under the Fifth Framework Programme, under the priority 'Energy, Environment and Sustainable Development'.

See: http://web.tu-dresden.de/intecuspayt/

The paper was supported by the Czech grant GACR No.402/06/0806

Source: Sauer, P., Parízková, L. and Hadrabová, A. (2008). Charging systems for municipal solid waste: Experience from the Czech Republic. Waste Management. 28(12): 2772-2777.


Welcome Mr Greedy - more comments about recycling and financial crisis

It is my honor and pleasure as well to host comments by a good friend Mr. Derek Greedy Chair of the ISWA Landfill Working Group - thanks a lot Derek and feel free to post more..

Derek wrote:

"Dear Antonis I think both Greg and Andrew make some very good points but I do just have one comment with respect to Andrew's observations.

He quite rightly points out that we have to consider these issues in the global context but then considers Europe specifically and the impact that the global economic downturn may have on landfill diversion targets.

I am not as pessimistic here as Andrew would appear as landfill diversion is more about the reduction of biodegradable waste going to landfill than it is about other recyclable materials. The diversion of biodegradable matter should not feel the impact of the decline in the global recycling market. Composting has a very local market place and perhaps could accommodate some of the wastepaper looking for a home. It might need some changes to the current composting /anaerobic digestion activities but it might ease the pressure on wastepaper recycling.

I recognise that my suggestion does not give any answers for the recycling of metals and plastics and only scratches the surface for paper and card we should not forget that recycling is not just about the commodities that find their way to China for recycling."

Comments on recycling and financial crisis

Greg Vogt, ISWA MD wrote:

"Some considerations

Be mindful of the opportunities to both buyers and sellers when prices are subject to near-term volatility and your materials /products can sometimes afford to move on a different supply chain.

Calling for protective price controls for one business sector is not the way forward, history tells us. Where transportation and labor costs are significant portions, controls can be like grabbing a tiger by the tail."

Andrew Kouskouris, Chair of the Greek FEAD (PASEPPE) wrote:

"Dear Antonis

As we all know we have a significant decline in demand of commodities and prices too for recyclates.

This is so important that could have potential consequences for the targets have been set up in EU for recycling as well as landfill diversion.

Another thing is that public confidence would be reduced.

In WFD which recently was published and is referred that supports the use of recycling (paper , metals, plastic ) ,has been now threatened by global financial crisis with reduced or not at all demand for those basic recyclates.

Metals also will have significant consequences in end-of-life vehicles

We have to know both private and public bodies if we have to continue collecting the above mentioned recyclates which it is economically unviable and threats to jobs in the recycling industry.

I think that we have to work in Global as well in EU cooperation for what has to be done (possibly financial or other kind of help) to the sector of recycling to continue to trade in this difficult period, also I would suggest closely monitoring that phenomenon nationally in cooperation of public bodies and private sector.

Andrew Kouskouris

E-mail: akousk@paseppe.grhttp://www.paseppe.gr "