Waters off the Greek island of Andros were choked with garbage on Monday after a landfill was flushed into the sea in an environmental disaster indicative of Greece’s chronic waste management woes.
The island’s deputy mayor Lefteris Ballas said strong rainfall last week had caused a “garbage avalanche” from the landfill which lies some 400 metres (yards) above Schinias beach in the picturesque island’s south-east.
“Fortunately the damage was limited,” Ballas told AFP, adding that the landfill has operated for the past 40 years without a licence.
Officials threw up nets to keep the waste from floating to neighbouring islands in the Cycladic archipelago, a group of popular Aegean Sea islands that draw hundreds of thousands of tourists every year.
The island’s authorities have begun a clean-up operation in the area which is near an archaeological site, a Geometric-era settlement over 2,700 years old.
They have also invited university experts from Athens to help stabilise the landfill and are seeking alternative waste management methods.
“For now, the garbage is stored in trucks,” Ballas said.
Local communities in Greece have for decades dumped their rubbish in ravines and other available areas, earning the country large fines from the European Commission for serious environmental neglect.
Greece has few organised waste disposal facilities and recycling efforts have only recently begun in earnest.
Local opposition has also held up state efforts to manage the problem.
Since December, police forces have regularly clashed with residents in the rural town of Keratea near Athens who oppose the construction of a waste handling facility in the area.