The next few years are decisive for recycling in Cyprus, Environment Department Chief tells CNA

The next two to three years will be decisive for managing waste in Cyprus, according to the Director of the Department of the Environment Costas Hadjipanayiotou.

In an interview with CNA, he talks about the challenges ahead on recycling and reduction of waste as well as the steps the Department takes to achieve the ambitious targets set at pan-European level.

Now, he said, Cyprus recognises that it is not above average on recycling, adding that “We have met targets for PMD in 2014 and 2015 but we have not met our targets in two recycling flows.”

The first is wood, for which the target set is 15% and Cyprus is below half of that goal and the second is glass where again Cyprus has met about half the target of 25%.

Glass is the only material fully recycled in Cyprus

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Asked why the percentage of glass recycling is so low, he explains that “while it is easy to recycle glass, at the same time it is a material which is heavy and it needs to be transported separately.” The fact that people must carry their own glass bottles to the special areas seems to make things difficult when it comes to their willingness to recycle, he notes, adding however that “there is an upward trend.”

Glass is the only material which goes through the full recycling process in Cyprus, he says, adding that the competent body, Green Dot, “has contracted with the Vassiliko Cement Works which uses it as a raw material in its production process.”

As far as other materials are concerned, such as metal and paper, Cyprus meets its targets, he points out.

Replying to a question, he says that “our targets is to reach by 2020 50% or our produced recyclables and we were under obligation by 2015 to establish systems which will help in sorting at the source and having separate collection”, meaning the green spots. This, he adds, also has to do with the door to door collection by Green Dot of PMD and paper.

Helping local authorities by purchasing equipment

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Hadjipanayiotou explains that the Environment Department has this year started helping local authorities put in place submerged and semi submersible bins.

Right now approval is going ahead for a programme providing help to coastal municipalities who have great consumption due to the hotel industry and restaurants. Already, he adds, “we have started the implementation of programmes through which we will provide them with the means to sort at source and to collect separately,” in other words funding.

“We are proceeding with tenders and buying compressors and bins which we then provide them (municipalities) with,” he explains, adding that “We are expanding our operation from the coastal front of Larnaka and Famagusta to the coastal front of Limassol and Pafos and the mountainous Cyprus will follow next year.”

At the same time, he says, apart from providing equipment to local authorities in the framework of co-funded programmes of the new period 2014 – 2020, there will also be programmes which will assist municipalities which are not tourist or coastal.”

These programmes, he says, “will help municipalities put in place and operate the “pay what you throw” principle.” However, he adds, “before we impose this programme, we must give local authorities options, to help people, so that they can sort separately and have the space.”

Euros 27 million allocated from EU co-funded programmes by 2020

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“We have started. We are on track. I believe we will do well,” he notes, adding that “I believe that 2017 and 2018 will be crucial years when the majority of municipalities will be helped out with equipment and we hope that in the beginning of 2017 compulsory recycling will be adopted.”

He also refers to “extensive” raising awareness campaigns the Department of the Environment will organise together with the local authorities, in the context of European programmes. “A total of Euros 27 million which will be allocated by 2020,” for this, he says.

Asked whether a recycling policy is implemented at government offices, he says that “despite the fact that there is no obligation to recycle yet, those in charge of recycling are cooperating with all government departments, collecting mainly paper and glass.”

Asked about the challenges ahead, he refers to the need to have “good communication and cooperation with local authorities.”

He recalls that “local authorities are at a transitional stage, where they are moving from a more costly operation to a more collective, group management of most of their issues.”

Thankfully, he notes, “both local authorities and the Interior Ministry have placed waste management in their priorities”, adding that “by law it is the responsibility of local authorities.”

“Once this transition period is over, which we hope it will be in 2017, I think there will be a positive outcome in tandem with our efforts to supply equipment, raise public awareness and train local authorities staff,” he says, adding that training programmes will start by the end of 2016, beginning of 2017.

Enhancing a waste management network in Cyprus

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Another challenge, according to Hadjipanayiotou, is enhancing the market of recyclable materials in Cyprus and explains that mixed refuse is collected at home on average twice a week.

“Since we want to increase sorting at source and recycling, it means that the rate of collecting mixed (waste) must drop and the rate of collecting recyclables must increase,” he adds, noting that “this is already happening in other European countries.”

At the same time he points out that “we want to improve waste and refuse management as part of the output cycle and a percentage of GDP.” This means, he adds, “to process and manage in the context of a good network in Cyprus as much waste as possible.”

This, he says, “could happen, maybe not 100%, but we can greatly improve on the rate we are currently on, where most materials are exported.”.

“When collection increases in Cyprus, the sustainability of businesses processing them to a greater extent or sending them processed abroad will also increase,” he explains.

According to Hadjipanayiotou businesses are showing an interest in this. He gives the example of the Vassiliko Cement Works company “which has made enormous progress in the past two years, completely changing its production process to use alternative fuel.”

“We encourage such efforts and I think that within 2017 will have new businesses in this field,” he adds.

Society must understand the need to recycle and reduce waste

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The Director of the Department of the Environment has talked to CNA about the need for society to better understand recycling matters and even take things one step further.

“Europe as a whole refers to less waste, prevention in production. So far we have talked about increasing recycling. The target now is to consume what we really need and to increase its recycling,” he points out.

The European Commission, together with member states, is preparing right now the EU goals for 2025 and 2030 on recycling.

“They are very ambitious goals, now we are talking about being allowed to bury in land fills only 10% of our waste by 2025,” he says, adding that in Cyprus today “we are at about 75%.”

The only exception is the amount Green Dot takes away from recycling and the waste management factory in Koshi, Larnaka, which has been operating for some years and produces a sort of compost. However, this product, is not considered suitable to be actually used as compost so it is also buried, he adds.

23 green stops across Cyprus

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Hadjipanayiotou says that 23 green spots are expected to operate in Cyprus.

“After they are operational this year or in 2017, the Department will review what the needs are and will see whether more spots are necessary”, he explains, adding that if that is the case they will go ahead with additional green stops at the end of the co-funded period.

He also says that certain municipalities have gone ahead and established their own green spots, which are smaller and less costly, mainly providing a service for unwanted pruning and leaf waste as well as large objects.

“We have a way ahead of us. We are very motivated. I think that the next two to three years will be decisive to changing waste management in Cyprus,” he notes.

Source: Cyprus News Agency