By Elias Hazou
Green Dot, the umbrella organisation licensed to recycle the packaging materials of consumer goods in Cyprus, on Thursday rebuffed allegations that it was overcharging Paphos municipality.
Earlier, Paphos mayor Phedonas Phedonas had accused the outfit of levying “illegal and excessive charges” and operating as a monopoly.
“We are unaware of the overcharging which the mayor invokes, obviously this allegation is derived from his own calculations and it does not arise from the implementation of our contract [with Paphos municipality], which Green Dot has complied with and continues to comply with to the letter,” Green Dot said in a statement, stressing it was a transparent organisation.
It went on to say it would be terminating its collaboration with the municipality, something they had been warning for the past month.
“At the same time, we have suggested to the municipality that it take over recycling if it so wishes, and Green Dot Cyprus can subsidise the recycling, in the context of Producer Responsibility, per tonne recycled.”
“We hope the mayor can ensure that Paphos residents are able to continue recycling.” Green Dot jabbed back.
Earlier in the day Phedonos addressed a letter to the auditor general claiming the municipality was being overcharged, based on an examination of the contract and invoices.
For instance, in one payment the municipality paid €4,399.62 (not including VAT) for 60 tonnes of PMD (Plastics, Metals and Drink Cartons) which works out to €400 per tonne, “an amount which can be considered unrealistic”, he told reporters during a press conference.
Phedonos also demands his municipality be refunded for what he calls Green Dot’s excessive charges.
According to the mayor, who has fast built a reputation as an anti-corruption swashbuckler, following his revelations on the Paphos landfill contract, over the last seven years Green Dot overcharged to the tune of €206,000.
Green Dot chairman Mike Spanos, who jousted with Phedonos live on the public broadcaster, suggested the mayor should turn it down a notch and that he was wrong of him to lump Green Dot along with the other scandals regarding sewerage systems and waste management contracts.
The mayor asked why for nine years Green Dot has been operating as a virtual monopoly, suggesting that political and financial circles were propping up the company.
Specifically, he said three other companies had bid for the recycling tender but their files had not even been properly reviewed.
Hitting back, Green Dot said the reason why a single recovery and recycling organisation is licensed in Cyprus was “simply because only we dared shoulder the burden and the responsibility for recycling”.
“The existence of a single collective compliance system is not a priori indicative of the lack of competition; the real question is whether Green Dot is abusing its dominant position,” which it was not, Green Dot said.
They pointed out that the presence of a single collective compliance system is neither unusual nor suspect, as this was the practice in 15 European countries, including Spain, France and Italy.
Phedonos announced that he would be furnishing police with all the data at his disposal.
The Cyprus Mail attempted to contact the mayor on Thursday evening, but he was unable to converse at the time as he was giving police a statement.
According to Phedonos, from October 2009 to June 2011, Paphos municipality has been charged with 10 per cent fee on the total cost of collection and management of PMD streams – a ‘blatant’ breach of the terms of the licensee’s operation.
From June 2009 to the present day, he added, the collective compliance system has levied a charge – initially of 60 per cent, later going up to 65 per cent – for the total cost of collecting and managing the stream of paper and cardboard.
The justification for this levy was that, weight-wise, 60 per cent of the materials collected were not waste from packaged products, but rather other types of paper, such as newspaper, magazines and books, for which the system (run by Green Dot) is not responsible.
But data compiled as recently as October 2015 reveal that the largest quantities of paper and cardboard end up at the Marathounda landfill, and that the paper and cardboard stream comprises mostly packaging and not other types of paper.
The mayor cited the financial results of the collective compliance system, according to which its revenues were €1.026 million in 2011, €975,490 in 2012, €964,595 in 2013 and €632,452 in 2014.
“How are these revenues put to use? Have they resulted in a reduction of the charges levied? What is for certain is that the charges levied on local authorities have not been reduced, nor has the efficiency of the system improved.”
Citing data from the Department of the Environment, he said that between 2010 to 2013, some 48,147 tonnes of paper and cardboard ended up at the Marathounda landfill, whereas during the same time period Green Dot was able to recover only 7695 tonnes, that is, just 13.77 per cent.
“The inadequacy and inefficiency of the system is obvious,” Phedonos wrote in his letter.