The protection of the environment, if set as a priority for the citizens in their daily life and the state through its policies, can improve the finances of the citizens and the state, and create new jobs, Commissioner for the Environment Ioanna Panayiotou points out.
In an interview with CNA, Panayiotou says that Cypriots are not especially environmentally aware, which is also apparent through EU statistics, noting that as of the year 2015 recycling will be mandatory.
Activities and campaigns
In 2014, the Commissioner's Office will continue ongoing campaigns and start two new ones.
"We will continue the campaign to create biological vegetable gardens in cooperation with REACTION Youth for the Prevention", mainly among families in vulnerable groups of the population. "We believe this initiative is pioneering and will be embraced by the society because, apart from producing vegetables for the family, gardening can give a huge psychological boost to people who are unemployed or feel they cannot provide enough for their families", she pointed out.
Referring to the two new campaigns, Panayiotou said they have to do with protecting the sea and coasts of Cyprus, and saving energy in households.
Furthermore, Panayiotou`s Office will continue presentations on environmental issues, noting that the role of organisations and the local administration was important, since the participation of the civil society was a precondition for the success of any campaign.
Panayiotou referred to Let`s Do It Cyprus! campaign, which is part of Let’s do it World!, a worldwide campaign to clean up the environment from rubbish. She said over 100 countries, including Cyprus, took part in the campaign.
"Unfortunately, Cyprus is considered to be a country full of rubbish, while Cypriots produce 2kg of rubbish a day, placing Cyprus in the first place concerning the per capita production of waste in the EU", she noted, adding that "our aim is to clean up Cyprus and keep it clean forever".
Panayiotou also said awareness campaigns were organised for schools to promote environmental awareness.
Furthermore, she referred to the ongoing campaign to declare Cyprus a country free of genetically modified organisms, carried out with the participation of 18 organisations, as well as events in May in the context of the March Against Monsanto.
Renewable energy sources
Panayiotou said the EU aim for the year 2020 was that the total share of renewable energy sources in the total energy consumption reached 13% and for the production of electricity 16%.
"So far, we have reached 10% in the total use of renewable energy sources and 5.5% in the production of electricity", Panayiotou pointed out.
Referring to aeolian parks or wind farms, Panayiotou said that by the end of 2013 there were five set up and fully operational in Cyprus, with 146.7 MW installed capacity.
Furthermore, she said solar parks have been set up through state programmes, and there are 1,712 photovoltaic systems with 30.6MW installed capacity.
Regarding the installation of solar panels for households, Panayiotou said that in 2013 there were 2,992 applications from non-vulnerable consumers of a total capacity of 8,860 kW, 1,899 applications from vulnerable consumers of a total capacity of 5,281kW, and 23 applications from local authorities.
Panayiotou said statistics indicated that the rate of recycling was increasing. "According to the Environment Department, the percentage of recycling for household waste in 2010 reached 20.3% and in 2011 it reached 22.4%", she said, adding that the recycling of packaging, based on the Greendot annual report, was 61.33% for 2012 and is expected to increase in 2013.
The Commissioner noted that awareness campaigns were paying off but that continuous work was needed so that people would make recycling a habit and would use the recycling systems correctly.
"What is missing is the implementation of a system for recycling and proper management of household waste across Cyprus", she said, adding that "sorting at the source, the creating of Green Points and composting could be very positive for recycling and the proper management of materials and products, even in the most remote areas".
Panayiotou pointed out that it was necessary to inform the citizens and cultivate awareness for this to be successful.
She noted that apart from paper, metal, plastic and glass, other recyclable materials were being collected, such as organic waste, mineral oil, bulky waste such as used cars, computers and other electrical and electronic devices, batteries, cooking oil etc.
"As far as I know, there are many recycling companies that collect these materials but they are not recycled here. They are sent abroad for processing", she said, adding that there was interest in creating recycling plants and that the state should support the creation of such infrastructure.
She noted that "in the future we expect to achieve the aims the EU is setting with a greater ease than today", adding that "the people will respond to recycling with a greater ease and we will reduce the bulk of waste by 50% by the year 2020, in line with the European Directive".
"Furthermore, as of the year 2015 recycling will be mandatory", she pointed out.
Composting, biological sewerage, green points
Regarding composting, Panayiotou said there has not been an official calculation of the households using this system and that some municipalities and communities have begun an effort on an experimental basis.
As far as biological sewerage systems are concerned, Panayiotou said there were plans to install such systems but there was a delay due to lack of funds.
Referring to the Green Points, Panayiotou said they are places were citizens can take various bulky materials for reuse or recycling, such as furniture.
She added that they were not operating on an official basis and could greatly improve the quality of life of the locals, as bulky objects would no longer be disposed haphazardly, noting that by mid-2015 there should be 22 Green Points in operation.
Panayiotou said that "Cypriot citizens are not especially aware regarding environmental issues", adding that "this is also apparent through EU statistics, which show that the percentage of Cypriot citizens stating that environmental issues are a priority for them is around 1% to 2%".
Message to the citizens
In a message to the citizens, Panayiotou said that "it is important to understand that the protection of the environment and ecology in general are directly linked with the economy".
Panayiotou explained that green development is the "new pioneering alternative proposal, where the environment is not just a sector but the core of every development plan of the state" and is also based on green education on all levels.
She noted that green development will create thousands of jobs. "It is estimated that in the sectors of green energy technologies there are about 2.5 million people employed globally (440,000 in solar energy, 190,000 in photovoltaic, 625,000 in heliothermic and over one million in biofuel and biomass). Indeed, the trend in these sectors is on the rise. Green markets for saving energy, recycling and waste management, water saving and management, and green transports are estimated of having a turnover of around €1 trillion and will reach €2 trillion by 2020", she said.
Panayiotou pointed out that "the protection of the environment, if set as a priority for the citizens in their daily life (by saving energy, recycling, green consumption etc) and in its implementation through state policy, can improve the finances of the citizens and the state, and create new jobs".
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