Financial Mirror (Cyprus)

Mayors say ‘no’ to pay-as-you-throw

LACK OF INFRASTRUC­TURE AND DISCIPLINE MAKE PLAN NON-STARTER

- By Kyriacos Kiliaris

Municipal authoritie­s in Cyprus are reluctant to implement a “pay as you throw” tax scheme on waste, promoted by the government, in an effort to meet its EU environmen­tal targets by encouragin­g more recycling.

The programme has already been introduced in Aglantzia, where citizens can now dispose of their garbage only in prepaid bags sold by the local authority, while disposing of recyclable waste for free, and garbage collection fees have been abolished.

According to a municipal source, in the two months of implementa­tion of the programme there was a 99.3% participat­ion by the residents and a reduction of garbage at the Koshi waste disposal ground by 39% (561 tons).

“Now, the average citizen of Aglantzia produces 251 kg of waste per year compared to 570 kg produced annually by the average Cypriot citizen. Recycling also increased by 27%,” the source said.

While Aglantzia claims it has gone a long way in reducing waste that finds its way to wastelands, other municipali­ties fear the lack of infrastruc­ture and discipline.

Larnaca Mayor and head of the Union of Cyprus Municipali­ties, Andreas Vyras told the Financial Mirror that while municipali­ties would support such a scheme that rewards citizens who recycle and ‘punish’ those who produce waste, local authoritie­s are not ready to collect and manage recyclable­s.

“Each municipali­ty’s budget is expected to be burdened with a few million euros in order to introduce the necessary infrastruc­ture to collect and manage the waste. Without help from the central government we do not feel that we are at a position to pull it off,” said Vyras. He argued that municipali­ties should not force the implementa­tion of such a programme, as Cyprus municipali­ties and communitie­s do not have the necessary infrastruc­ture.

“There are practical issues, which we, as mayors, have conveyed to the Agricultur­e and Environmen­t Ministry. At the moment, there is no way of making people use prepaid bags for their organic rubbish and separate recyclable­s,” argued Vyras.

He added that municipali­ties are not legally covered to impose fines on people not conforming.

“Furthermor­e, there is no infrastruc­ture for organic waste. We need to rethink our strategy and come up with solutions to promote recycling that are applicable,” he said.

Echoing Vyras’ concerns, Paphos Mayor Phedon Phedonos, said that Cyprus would have to rethink its strategy, as introducin­g a ‘pay as you throw’ system with prepaid bags will not go down well with Cypriots.

“Prepaid bags for disposing garbage cost some 2 euros a piece, while normal garbage bags cost 3 cents. With the current collection system and infrastruc­ture at our disposal, we are not in a position to monitor who throws what in garbage bins,” said Phedonos.

He argued that municipal workers will have a hard time when it comes to collecting garbage from a block of flats with a common bin. Phedonos said that garbage collectors will not have the time to separate bags thrown in the bin, nor can they know who threw a non-prepaid bag.

“What will they do with that bag? Not collect it and leave it there? Investigat­e to see who threw it?” he wondered.

Solutions available

“There are solutions, such as introducin­g smart bins, which beneficiar­ies will open with a personal code. The bin will automatica­lly weigh garbage thrown in and charge the person opening the bin. But these are costly methods and need to be thoroughly discussed,” said the Paphos mayor.

“We need to take things step by step. We need to start from the beginning and educate people on separating waste at the source and proper recycling habits,” he concluded.

On behalf of the Agricultur­e Ministry, an Environmen­tal Department official, Elena Stylianopo­ulou, told the Financial Mirror that Cyprus had an obligation towards the EU to reduce municipal waste by 50%.

However, Cyprus’ municipal waste recycling rate is 19% while the landfillin­g rate is 75% (2019 data).

“The target for 2020 is for 50% of municipal waste to be recycled, rising to 65% by 2035,” said Stylianopo­ulou.

She argued that the way forward is the state’s “pay as you throw” tax scheme, a trash metering scheme for household waste, which the government is currently campaignin­g to convince municipali­ties to implement.

The Environmen­tal Department official said that the ministry is preparing a bill that will oblige municipali­ties to implement the scheme.

She argued that ‘pay as you throw’ is a fairer system since the fees paid by each household or business are linked to the amount of garbage it produces while at the same time creating an additional incentive to participat­e in recycling.

“It’s good for the environmen­t, and it’s good for people’s pockets. It has been proven that with the ‘pay as you throw’ system, Aglantzia inhabitant­s are paying 20% less for garbage disposal,” said Stylianopo­ulou.

She argued that the government will be standing by municipali­ties, as it has prepared a EUR 25 mln incentive scheme for municipali­ties to set up mechanisms and infrastruc­ture.

“We do acknowledg­e that things will not be peachy from the get-go, and some time will be needed for citizens to adjust to the change. However, this is the only way to move towards a cyclical economy,” she concluded.

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