Cyprus is to follow other member states in adopting a “pay as you throw” tax scheme on waste in an effort to meet its EU environmental targets by encouraging more recycling.
However, municipalities, who must implement the scheme, are concerned over its feasibility as they do not have the necessary resources and infrastructure.
In response to EU warnings, that Cyprus will essentially fail to meet the EU’s 2020 recycling targets for municipal waste, Nicosia believes the ‘pay as you throw’ scheme is part of the answer.
It’s a trash metering scheme for household waste, currently being prepared by the government, aims to help Cyprus meet targets set by the EU for reducing waste now finding its way to landfills sites instead of being recycled.
While the recycling target set for EU members states for municipal waste for 2020 is set at 50%, Cyprus’ municipal waste recycling rate is 17% while the landfilling rate is 75% (2016 data).
The target for 2020 is for 50% of municipal waste to be recycled, rising to 65% by 2035, while the percentage of municipal waste finding its way to landfills should drop to 10%.
The scheme is to be implemented by Waste Management Councils set up in each district based on the cooperation between local authorities.
Despite being supportive of the government’s intentions, local authorities tasked with collecting and managing waste, are concerned the lack of infrastructure makes the project unfeasible.
Larnaca Mayor and head of the Union of Cyprus Municipalities, Andreas Vyras told the Financial Mirror that while municipalities support 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 set the needed 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 noted that after the recent shutdown of landfills sites, following EU recommendations and pressure, the cost of collecting waste from households has increased five-fold, going from EUR 8 to 40 for every tonne of waste.
Ayia Napa Mayor Yiannis Karousos told the Financial Mirror that although his municipality is all for the “pay as you throw” scheme, it will not be enforceable without financing from the central government.
“Currently our municipality collects some 16,000 tonnes of waste which is sent off to the waste treatment plan in Koshi. With the law in place, we expect that 60-70% of all waste will find its way to recycling plants.
We do not have the necessary vehicles to collect the waste, nor do we have the infrastructure to manage it. Implementing the scheme would burden the municipality’s budget by tens of millions of euros,” explained Karousos.
With the Ministry of Agriculture and Environment is to launch a series of consultations from next week, the Ayia Napa mayor added that serious studies need to be carried out to pinpoint the needs and requirements of each district.
Karousos said that Ayia Napa being a tourist destination has a lot more glass waste than other municipalities, so any plan for the area will need to take into consideration the need for glass recycling facilities.
The European Commission in various reports on Cyprus concluded that the island’s continued difficulties in implementing EU waste laws are mainly due to the lack of infrastructure and collection systems for recyclables and monitoring of the procedure.
In an interview to the Cyprus News Agency last week, Agriculture Minister Costas Kadis said the ministry’s aim is to have the new law passed by the end of 2019. He said the ministry is looking into various models, such as significantly increasing the cost of ordinary rubbish bags.
Waste for disposal in treatment plants such as Koshi or Pentakomo will only be discarded in the custom-made bags, the cost of which will act as an incentive for more recycling.
“As the cost of rubbish bags will increase, people will be looking to fill fewer bags as possible in order to limit household costs,” said Kadis.
The minister said that people will look for other ways to dispose of their waste such as turning to recycle.
Kadis said the ministry is trying to introduce a fairer system of payment for rubbish collection with those producing more non-recyclable waste being taxed more. This way, people will be encouraged to separate their recyclable waste from non-recyclable, “waste separation at the source”.
The ministry will be entering consultations with municipalities and local councils to go over the proposed scheme.
He said waste management is one of the biggest challenges faced by the ministry as the matter has drawn the attention of the EU which may at some point impose fines if measures are not taken.
Addressing local authorities cost concerns, Kadis said that the Ministry intends to support them during the initial transition period, which will follow the switch.
“We will provide local authorities with the legal framework, so they are to increase their income and be able to meet the requirements of the scheme down the road.”
Kadis said the Ministry’s plan is “instead of increasing local authorities funding, as compensation for the increase in waste collection costs, to give them grants to build the necessary infrastructure and a management plan which will bring about the reduction of waste production and increase recycling”.
Cyprus Green MP Charalambos Theopemptou, and advisor to the Ministry on the bill, confirmed that there are weaknesses regarding infrastructure, which lawmakers and government will take into account.
“As an EU member state we have an obligation to collect organic waste, however, in Paphos, for instance, this is not currently possible due to the lack of infrastructure. So, the law will assign the task of drawing up a local waste management plan to the local Waste Management Boards, which have been set up,” Theopemtou told the Financial Mirror.
He said the reasoning behind the whole effort is to make recycling compulsory and to promote the separation of recyclables at the source, that is the home, the factory or business.
“You will not be charged for what you recycle but for what you throw as non-recyclable waste,” said Theopemptou adding that the scheme will probably be implemented by increasing the cost of garbage bags.
“Local authorities, at an initial stage, will be collecting non-recyclable waste in bags which will carry an indication of approval by the municipality or local council. This could be a stamp or a sticker on the bag. Municipalities will be able to either impose a tax on indicated bags or sell specially designed stickers to their residents”
Theopemptou added that the public will be informed on how to separate their waste through an instruction leaflet.
Separating waste at the source will make it easier for waste treatment plants to identify better quality organic waste that can be sent to the organic waste treatment plant in Vassiliko, increasing the quality and quantity of biofuel produced at the plant.