SINCE it was founded in 1990, Energy Globe Award winning charity `Cans For Kids` has collected and recycled more than 25 million cans, according to its vice president, Rosie Charalambous.
In an interview with the Cyprus News Agency, Charalambous said the charity’s goal was to get as many people as possible recycling; to encourage people to volunteer – even for just an hour a week – to give something back to the community; and to improve the standard of medical care available to sick children in Cyprus by donating state-of-the-art medical equipment to the main children`s hospital.
Cans for Kids put Cyprus on the global environmental map when it was awarded the internationally acclaimed Energy Globe Award, the so called ‘Environmental Oscar’, in the category “youth” in 2013.
Charalambous said that in 1990 there was little, if any, awareness about the environment or recycling on the island.
She said that “to encourage people to save their cans, it was decided to use the proceeds to purchase medical equipment for the children`s wards at the Makarios Hospital in Nicosia, which is Cyprus’ central paediatric facility and treats very sick children from all over the island”.
She also said that from a small start in Nicosia, Cans For Kids now has can banks all over Cyprus – including many rural areas and villages which aren’t serviced by other recycling schemes, which usually only collect from the towns. The list of can bank locations is on the website www.cansforkids.org and also on Google maps.
With only one employee – everyone else involved is a volunteer – Cans For Kids recycles roughly 9 – 10% of the UBC (used beverage cans) exported by Cyprus, she said.
In order to raise awareness about the importance of recycling, Cans for Kids often hosts school visits to its sorting site, explaining to the students all the issues involved and how they can help.
So far Cans for Kids has donated medical equipment worth over €260,000 to the Makarios hospital.
It has also just completed a project with the Turkish Cypriot ‘Cyprus Green Action Group’ which has resulted in a similar scheme starting up in the Turkish Cypriot community.
“This, I think, is a major step forward in caring for the environment of the entire island” she said.
Charalambous noted that they actively encourage people to volunteer, and have “a wonderful group of people, aged from 10 – 70, who join us when they can on Saturday mornings to sort the cans ready for baling”.
Asked how she sees the recycling efforts in Cyprus and what more needs to be done, she said that people in Cyprus “are either very enthusiastic, or can’t be bothered”.
“Often, I think, they don’t realise how easy it is to separate their rubbish at home and take it to a recycling point. I also think many people don’t know the basic facts: Throwing away just one aluminium can wastes energy – it’s equivalent to pouring away half that can of oil. Twenty recycled cans can be made with the equivalent energy needed to produce just one can” she pointed out.
She said that the children who visit Cans For Kids are amazed when they see the cans being baled, and when they see the mountain of cans waiting to be sorted. “They get an instant idea of the volume of stuff going into our landfill sites”.
“I think if more people really understood the impact their recycling has on our environment they would do it – there isn’t a single good reason not to” she noted.
CNA asked Charalambous to talk about the significance of the Energy Globe Award.
“It was thrilling to get recognition from the Energy Globe Foundation in Austria. The Energy Globe award is known as ‘the Environmental Oscar’, so it was a huge thing for Cyprus to win, and as the ceremony was streamed live all around the world by Austrian television I think it really put Cyprus on the environmental map” she stressed.
“We had won the National Energy Globe Award in 2012 in another category, but the World Award for ‘Youth’ was very special – and I dedicated it to all the young people who have given their time to help Cans For Kids over the years. They are very special young people who will be the active citizens of tomorrow”.
“For me, the Energy Globe Award was the culmination of over a quarter of a century working for a better environment on the island, and very gratifying. And the work continues, anyone who would like to see what we do, or perhaps even lend a hand, is always welcome to get in touch” she concluded.