Circular economy: Bottom of the pit in waste management
Cyprus has ranked last among EU member states in regard to waste management and disposal. Politico.eu took a close at how countries are progressing toward the EU’s goals of making economies reuse and recycle more while cutting down on waste, with Cyprus being a laggard.
Politico used data released by the European Commission in January to get a sense of how well countries and the EU are doing in reaching the goal of a ‘circular economy’, one in which almost nothing is wasted. As, Politico.eu writes, in a circular economy, products last as long as possible, and when they need to be scrapped they are recycled and the materials reused.
These include how much garbage and food waste is being produced, how much of that waste is recycled, and how much of that recycled material is actually reused. They also include the volume of recyclable materials traded, how many patents are filed having to do with the circular economy, and how many jobs are created in “circular economy sectors”.
Politico researched the data for seven of the Commission’s key metrics and ranked each of the European Union’s 28 countries, with Cyprus ranking at the bottom of the list in each metric. The country came last but one as far as waste produced per year on a municipal level with 640 kg amounting to each resident. Performing a bit better as far as food waste is concerned, Cyprus is ninth from the bottom, above Greece and Romania.
The country is also performing poorly when it comes to recycling. With the island’s municipalities exhibiting a recycling rate of just 17%, Cyprus is last but two in the list. Germany is the leader with a municipal recycling rate of 66%. Similarly, we are in the fourth place from bottom in the share of goods traded which are made from recycled material and the material reuse rate with just 3%. The Netherlands leads the list of material reuse with a rate of 27%.
More worrying is that Cyprus is lagging in investments made in the circular economy with just EUR 0.1 mln a year, while the island has seen the registration of a mere four patents related to the circular economy since 2000.
Commenting on Politico’s revealing report, Charalampos Theopemptou, member of parliament for the Greens, said that this comes as no surprise. The former Commissioner for the Environment told the Financial Mirror that “while the EU has been putting forward policies promoting the circular economy for years now, Cyprus is not keeping up”.
Theopemptou said that Cyprus is lagging both in legislation and in implementing the existing legislation. “While countries in Europe have made recycling compulsory by fining citizens who do not recycle, not only does Cyprus not do that, but many areas are not covered by the recycling collection scheme,” he said.
Furthermore, Theopemptou said that Europe is trying to promote and implement circular economy policies which will also create a series of jobs. Giving an example, the Greens’ MP referred to the fact that a number of EU member-states have implemented a separate collection of food waste which is recycled and reused. “This creates a number of jobs. First you need people to collect the food waste, then you need people working at pasteurisation units where it will be processed, with the waste then being transferred to a unit where people will be working to create biogas through anaerobic digestion. What waste remains can be made into compost,” explained Theopemptou. He stressed that a zero-waste policy is a win-win situation as green policies are implemented and the economy grows in a sustainable manner.
However, in Cyprus, while there are 13 units which can produce biogas, there is no way of transporting the food waste to them.
“The government has set up two units which have the task of processing food waste, but they have not set up a system of collection” he said. Even when food waste reaches these units it is mixed with other waste, making the separation difficult, while much of the food waste is polluted with in some case toxic waste, such as cleaning products.
“The separation of food waste must be done at the source. The state needs to inform people on how to separate food waste” he added, indicating that there is a lot of work needed to be done by the state on properly informing people about recycling and reusing.
Theopemptou said that the lack of a recycling and reusing culture has to be addressed by the state. Giving an example of simple things that could be done, he said that there are no ‘green spots’ in Cyprus. “Green spots in Europe, are places where people take things that they do not need anymore, but are reusable. For example, old furniture or clothes. In countries in central Europe, most of the student apartments are furnished with second hand furniture and appliances,” he said.